One pitfall of the global economy’s quest for cheap labor is that it accelerates homogeneity by helping erase differences between richly disparate cultures. The topical comedy Outsourced aids in that process, celebrating sameness more than difference. Though the evils of outsourcing are touched on, the movie won’t go over well with protestors outside the next IMF or World Bank conference. Peddling a harmless product that’s colorful on the outside but ultimately flavorless, director/co-writer John Jeffcoat wants us to link arms across the ocean and blend superficial aspects of two societies.
Noticeably ordinary and complacent, Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) manages phone-order fulfillment for Western Novelty, a Seattle-based company selling cheesy, America-themed knickknacks. One day his obnoxious boss orders him to fire his staff and travel to a small town outside Mumbai, India, where he’ll train his replacement at a new call center. Early on in his three-week immersion, Todd focuses on reducing the Indian workers’ MPI (minutes per incident) so he can go home. Gradually, he learns to smell the cardamom.
The clichéd humor here consists of turista diarrhea and linguistic and cultural misunderstandings along the lines of “Eat with your right hand, wipe with your left” and “What’s that cow doing in the middle of the office?” Todd’s wide-eyed yet capable replacement Puro (Asif Basra) insists Todd stay with his auntie, who quizzes him about his love life and pushes food. A street urchin keeps stealing his cell phone. Todd falls for a female employee named Asha (Ayesha Dharker). They spend a “Holiday in Goa”—her euphemism for a premarital fling—studying the Kama Sutra and generally exploiting one another and the cultures they represent.
Pasteurized for mass consumption, Outsourced goes something like this: “You crazy Indians!” “No, you crazy Americans!” Laughter. “Oh, we’re all so wacky! But we have lots to teach each other.” By the time Todd places a mystic third eye (red dot) on George Washington’s forehead, it’s clear unfettered international commerce and mutual enlightenment aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. —
Distributor: Truly Indie
Cast: Josh Hamilton, Ayesha Dharker, Asif Basra, Matt Smith, Sudha Shivpuri and Larry Pine
Director: John Jeffcoat
Screenwriters: George Wing & John Jeffcoat
Producer: Tom Gorai
Genre: Romantic comedy
Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content
Running time: 103 min.
Release date: September 28, 2007 NY