Austin Film Festival: Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero
Maz Jobrani strikes a rich vein of comedy
By Marjorie Baumgarten,
12:30PM, Sun. Oct. 26, 2014
When most Americans think of nouns that might follow the descriptor “Iranian-American,” the word “comedy” does not readily spring to mind. Maz Jobrani’s Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero is the movie that will change that misconception.
Making its world premiere tonight at the Austin Film Festival, Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero is a total hoot. The humor is corny buffoonery, but what else would one expect from a comic known as the “Persian Pink Panther”? Maz Jobrani, the star and co-writer of the film, is a founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, which has aired on Comedy Central, and has starred in two Showtime Specials, in addition to making appearances in a host of television, radio, film, and podcast work. This man knows funny.
Jobrani plays Jimmy Vestvood, an Iranian who’s been granted access to emigrate to America with his mother. After settling in the States (not without several comical mishaps along the way), Jimmy gets a job working security at a Persian market, although his dream is to become an Amerikan hero like Steve McQueen. Toward that aspiration, Jimmy is assisted by his seventh cousin Leila (Sheila Vand, also hilarious), who’d like to be his sidekick – in more than one sense. Jimmy’s bumbling persona definitely calls to mind comic forerunners like Inspector Clouseau and Borat, although Jimmy is ridiculous in his own asinine way and, as a result, becomes the tool of evil arms dealer JP Monroe (John Heard, who hasn’t looked as if he’s been having this much fun acting in a long time).
The satire has political bite, even though its choppers have the consistency of Silly Putty. Plotwise, the movie moves from set-piece to set-piece in a manner that favors the continuance of the running gag of Jimmy’s jughead antics as he sets himself up to become the unwitting victim of Monroe’s nefarious plot. Jimmy’s desire to become an American P.I. like his favorite fictional heroes serves the character well, and I can easily picture more movies starring the character. Whatever you do, stick around through the end of the closing credits for an extra dollop of well-aimed, irreverent humor. Maz Jobrani’s clowning is a salve for our troubling times.
Jimmy Vestwood: Amerikan Hero screens tonight, Sunday, Oct. 26, 9pm, IMAX Theatre, and Monday, Oct. 27, 7pm, Alamo Drafthouse Village.