Exporting Raymond

23 May

Title: Exporting Raymond
Philip Rosenthal
Writer: Philip Rosenthal
Philip Rosenthal
MPAA Rating: 
PG, brief language and smoking
86 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 

Everybody Loves Raymond is one of the most successful television shows in recent times. 9 seasons, over 200 episodes, in the Top 10 highest rated shows in each of its last 6 seasons, 2 Emmy’s for Outstanding Comedy Series and an additional 10 Emmy’s for members of its cast. Just seriously one of the most beloved TV shows I can remember, and one of those that’s like Friends, Frasier or the other great ones, in that you can watch time and time again no matter what, and it’ll never get old. So this documentary, directed, written and starring the show’s creator, Phil Rosenthal, was bound to be quite amusing at the very least.

It focused on Mr. Rosenthal’s experience while taking his show to Moscow, and trying to help adapt it as Everybody Loves Kostya. However, what came from that was hilarious, a true example of what being lost in translation really means, as Mr. Rosenthal not only has to deal with the fact that a lot of situations and mannerisms of his show didn’t translate to a Russian audience, but also has to deal with the Russian executives in charge of producing the new version, who didn’t seem to get his vision at all. The frustrating situations we see Mr. Rosenthal being thrust upon are truly hilarious, and while the documentary is not a groundbreaking piece of work, it’s still really funny as you really won’t believe some of the stuff that goes on in it.

This really is the stuff that you just can’t make up, and it’s relentlessly entertaining to watch this huge cultural clash take place, because it’s not like the Russians are known for their sense of humor, and to watch Mr. Rosenthal be so misunderstood here is sensational fun. It’s really awesome to see how Russians respond to the humor in Everybody Loves Raymond, which obviously relies a lot on the stuff that goes on in everyday American life that Mr. Rosenthal and his cast and crew made fun of in great ways, because that’s not necessarily how Russian life is, and even if it is it just so happens that Russians don’t really want to find the humor in their everyday happenings.

And while it’s not hugely insightful, it is quite cool to see how some of these discrepancies are approached, like when they wanted to make Debra wear a dress and heels instead of the typical jeans and sneakers we saw the great Patricia Heaton sporting in our beloved version and that spoke so much to the American woman. Same thing about Ray, in our version we got Ray as the character that was based on Ray Romano’s comedy, with a comic style that wasn’t afraid of self-depreciation and which was hilarious because of it. In Russia, however, to have a lead character that’s a family man, be so easily influenced and many times submissive to his parents, wife or brother was something they found not an ounce of funny in.

So that’s why I liked this film, because it showed that adapting something from one culture to a different one can prove to be immensely different. And I liked it even more because of Mr. Rosenthal himself, who’s really awesome and who you can see a lot of Raymond in (though it’s obviously the other way round). How frustrated he gets, how ironic he is, how much he worries, and just the overall look of him adds a lot to the comedic effect of Exporting Raymond, and he truly is a joy to have as a guide in the misadventures of an American TV producer in Moscow.

And even though this isn’t a documentary that psycho-analizes Russian culture, it does give us an insight into what they are like, or at least how something that we can relate to greatly would be to them. Because that’s ultimately what Mr. Rosenthal sets out to achieve here, to understand the Russian people and make his own humor appeal to them, and make the people he has to work with understand his point of view, and getting to a point in which his art of making hilarity ensue out of very common and domestic situations would mesh well with the more slapsticky sort of fare that the Russians prefer without compromising too much. And it really is all very fun to watch because it never once really delves into more serious territory, but it always gives a nice look at what it is to work in an environment in which you don’t feel so comfortable or all that welcome.

That’s why you should like Exporting Raymond, because even though it probably could have provided us with a better insight into how Russian people are in the 21st century, it does create a fantastic look at how working in such an environment is, adapting your own TV show for an audience that doesn’t get it, and with people who don’t get you and aren’t the easiest to work alongside with. And it’s great stuff because Mr. Rosenthal proves to be a perfect leading man for such a situation, and is great at exploring why certain things have such a huge success abroad while in not so necessarily to the American audience, and vice versa, and even if you’re never going to think about producing a TV show, this is all very interesting to watch, not to mention that after seeing this one you’re bound to go home and get your hands on your Everybody Loves Raymond DVD’s or watch it online and remember why it is you loved the show so much. Even if Russians don’t.

Grade: B


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