I’m sure the people who described Maz Jobrani’s comedy Jimmy Vestvood: American Hero thought they were doing it a favor by comparing it to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, but it was precisely that comparison that convinced me I didn’t want to see it. Personally, I’d compare it more to Peter Sellers—though, I guess people don’t know who he was any more.
But there are some strong similarities between Vestvood and Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau: A bumbling incompetence combined with an inexplicable appeal to the ladies, for example. On the other hand, Jimmy doesn’t have Clouseau’s otherworldly detachment. In fact, his most endearing trait is his love of America, though it often goes awry.
The movie begins with Our Hero discovering that he has won the lottery to come to America and celebrating by dancing in the streets waving an American flag with all his friends. A series of mishaps results in the flag being—well, set on fire, and before you know it the whole footage ends up on Hank Shannity’s KOX News show.
The so-thinly-veiled-as-to-not-be-veiled-at-all references to Fox are among the weakest parts of the movie, descending into clapper humor, and missing a good comedic set-up at the end by making Shannity (Matthew Glave) an all-purpose villain rather than a misguided but gung-ho America booster, much like Jimmy.
The main plot involves evil arms manufacturer (John Heard, C.H.U.D.) hiring Jimmy to follow his hot, adulterous wife (an amusingly over-the-top Deanna Russo in a ridiculously over-the-top blond wig) to get pictures of her with her comically well-endowed lover. But this masks a super-secret double-plot involving…uh…drone drones.
All this while Jimmy struggles to manage his Iranian-ness in America, fighting off the advances of his 6th or 7th cousin (Sheila Vand, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night), and his jerk of a boss (Marshall Manesh A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Shirin In Love) who’s constantly hitting on his mother (Vida Ghahremani, The Stoning of Soraya M.)—and isn’t it funny that we know the Persian actors better than the American ones? (Well, the American ones are mostly TV guys and we don’t watch a lot of TV. We’re such hipsters.)
I always ask my Persian friends about these films, and in this case, the one who had seen it was kind of put off by the low budget. It is very low budget, and those seams do show at times. Also, the comedy is very hit-and-miss. But it is very good-natured overall—which perhaps distinguishes it from both Sellers and Cohen, who can be rather mean. And that may have to do with why it has played for months at our local theater when most Persian films are lucky to get a few days play, if any.
Directed by Jonathan Kesselman, who did The Hebrew Hammer a decade back, and has a sequel, The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler coming up soon.