"Everybody Loves Raymond" was a highly successful American sitcom. It was extremely popular during its nine-year run. Not cool enough to be watched by me, but popular. About an everyman who has to deal with average American issues, it of course was a natural candidate to be adapted for Russian audiences. The documentary Exporting Raymond depicts the Chernobyl-sized culture clash that ensued.
Exporting Raymond follows "Everybody Loves Raymond" creator Phil Rosenthal on his several trips to Russia to collaborate with Russian writers, directors, actors, producers and studio executives to make a pilot for "Everybody Loves Voroniny." Along the way, he discovers that the Russian television industry is in its infancy, few people if any share his sense of humor - oh - and the writers don't find his show funny.
Needless to say, Rosenthal looks like he's going to pull his hair out most of the time.
Rosenthal is a slightly goofy looking, can't-hide-his-emotions-if-he-was-paid-to-do-so guy who more or less embodies the "everyman." Except that he made a highly successful American television show and is undoubtedly rich. But that makes it all the funnier to see such an accomplished person dropped into a situation that shouldn't be outside his comfort zone but is nonetheless.
Some of the situations he encounters are absurd. Some are chuckle-worthy. Some are downright frustrating. Since the documentary is from Rosenthal's perspective - it was written and directed by him as well - one has to assume that there's another, less flattering angle to the guy that we don't see. The Russians might not be as accomplished as he is, but they at least appeared to somewhat know what they're doing. Exporting Raymond paints Rosenthal as being "always right" and the center of reason, and the Russians not so much. It's a little hard to buy.
But taking Exporting Raymond for what it is - a documentary told from the perspective of the protagonist - it properly exudes the man's emotions as he encounters each situation. The pained, shocked and often bewildered expression Rosenthal wears most of the time adds to the enjoyment factor.
Exporting Raymond is a funny and at least mildly insightful look at the production of a Russian television pilot. It won't win any awards, and its biased perspective doesn't give a lot of credence to what exactly happened, but the movie is consistently entertaining and allows audiences to share in one man's harmless misery - from a safe distance.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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