Exporting Raymond

[3.5 stars] Exporting Raymond (2010) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

Netflix predicted I'd like this, against my expectations. I'm really not a big documentary guy. But the Netflix algorithm rules: it was just quirky enough to amuse, and just thought-provoking enough to … um … provoke thought.

The star is Phil Rosenthal. I call him "Phil", because I'm pretty sure if we ever met, I'd be calling him that in about five seconds. He's very much an everyman, despite being (almost certainly) fantastically wealthy due to his successful TV career.

Most notably, Phil was the executive producer of Everybody Loves Raymond; this is the story of his travels to Moscow to help develop a Russian version of the show. He's very much a fish out of water. The things that made Raymond a hit don't seem to map well into Russian TV culture. American and Russian senses of humor don't translate well, Yakov Smirnoff notwithstanding. Phil runs up against a costume designer who wants to turn the Russian version of Debra Barone into a glamorous clothes horse. When some of the American scripts are adapted over, neither the Russian cast or their director seem to understand neither the humor of the original, nor the chemistry between the characters, let alone how to make it work in Russian. When Phil tries to offer advice, his efforts are met with stone-faced Russian implacability.

Phil grows increasingly bemused, but he's sensible enough to muddle through with a sense of humor. He develops an interesting relationship with his bodyguard/driver, an ex-military type with a health problem he's trying to bear stoically. But Phil is not a stoic himself, and doesn't allow anyone around him to be one either.

No spoilers, but the ending is kind of sweet and surprising. Trivia: Phil is married to Monica Horan (who played Amy on the show); she has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance here, smooching Phil goodbye.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:40 PM EDT