Combustible Celluloid
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With: Danny Pudi, Jon Heder, Rizwan Manji, Karen David, Iqbal Theba, Kevin Pollak, Samuel Page, Michael McMillian, Anand Desai-Barochia, Samba Schutte
Written by: Sameer Asad Gardezi, Lena Khan
Directed by: Lena Khan
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 94
Date: 09/22/2017

The Tiger Hunter (2017)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Indian Simmer

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This light-hearted comedy-drama goes through the stalest, most worn-out story grooves imaginable, but with its cultural sensitivity and its sweetly lovable characters, it's very difficult not to like.

In The Tiger Hunter, Sami (Danny Pudi) wishes to win the heart of the girl he loves, Ruby (Karen David), and to live up to the legacy of his father — the tiger hunter of the title — and so he moves from his small village in India to New York in 1979 to become an engineer.

Of course, nothing goes as planned, and Sami winds up moving into a tiny apartment already occupied by a dozen other misplaced souls (mostly Indian) and takes a temporary job as a draftsman. When Ruby and her strict father visit, Sami pretends to be living in a mansion, actually belonging to the boss's son, Alex (Jon Heder), to impress them. But the lie is exposed. So Sami's only chance to set things right is to solve the problem his company cannot crack: how to make a microwave oven that doesn't explode.

With nods to Bollywood entertainments, The Tiger Hunter is mostly made by American-based Indian artists, and if one looks hard enough, there might be some kind of subversive commentary about the American Dream here. However, it's much easier to just float along with the familiar old twists and turns, as well as the goofy supporting characters.

Happily, the movie doesn't end with Sami landing his dream job and becoming a millionaire. Better still, he learns about how to enjoy the small moments in life. And though he races to get the girl in the final act, it's not a race against time ending with a tear-stained speech. Rather, it becomes a casual, sight-seeing road trip with friends; the ending is left ambiguous.

Charming Danny Pudi (of TV's Community) is a big reason all this works, but credit must go to co-writer Sameer Asad Gardezi and writer/director Lena Khan for holding it all together (and not exploding like a microwave). Not to mention that the 1970s-era fashions, cars, and props are fabulous.

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