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Originally published Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 3:05 PM

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‘The Muslims Are Coming!’ shows ‘power of punchlines’

A movie review of “The Muslims Are Coming!,” a sporadically effective documentary about Islamophobia and a group of Muslim comics who take their act on the road.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 2.5 stars

‘The Muslims Are Coming!,’ a documentary directed by Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah. 81 minutes. Not rated; contains profanity. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.

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Eight years ago, Albert Brooks cast himself in “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World,” a kind of documentary in which he played an American filmmaker in search of humor in the Middle East.

One of his targets was the Western bigotry of Islamophobia, but that didn’t work out too well. Islamophobia has actually increased in the years since Brooks made his film. Now there’s a similar project, made by Muslims, that demonstrates its ubiquity and questions it.

In the patchy but engaging “The Muslims Are Coming!,” a group of young comics takes to the road and tries to puncture a few myths about the history of Islam. Some of the stand-up material is funny, but the interaction with audience members is priceless.

If you thought you knew the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Quran, prepare to be demolished during this variation on Trivia Night. Even a few scholars might be surprised at the similarities and differences contained in what seem like very familiar verses.

The filmmakers count on what they call “the power of punchlines” to make a point and possibly change minds. For much of the time they score.

They may spend too much time with questions about President Obama’s religion (take them, please), or the controversy over the Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan, but it’s good to have these things on the record, in a coherent documentary format.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

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