The creator of Everybody Loves Raymond brought his show to Russia. I watched his documentary about it, so you don't have to.
I should have known that Exporting Raymond wasn't going to be funny. After all, Everybody Loves Raymond wasn't funny, so why would a movie about Phil Rosenthal, the guy that created Everybody Loves Raymond, traveling to Russia to recreate the "magic" of the original be funny? The thing is, the trailer for Exporting Raymond actually is really funny, with a classic fish-out-of-water setup, and that tricked me into thinking that the movie would be funny. Anyway, good Samaritan that I am, I'll save you the time and effort of sifting through Exporting Raymond yourself and just tell you the things that were funny about it. No need to thank me.
1) Phil Rosenthal has a hilariously narrow idea of cultural difference
Most of Exporting Raymond's jokes come at the expense of the city of Moscow. Unfortunately, we've all heard many an "In Communist Russia" joke in the long decades since Yakov Smirnoff first graced these shores. Despite Rosenthal's efforts to portray it otherwise, Russia doesn't seem that different from the U.S. What is funny is watching him take things as innocuous as rain as signs of a vast culture clash. It's like hearing some tourist say "Only in New York!" about, like, a hot day. You're supposed to laugh at Russia, but you end up laughing at the guy who created Everybody Loves Raymond.
2) The Russian Raymond crew is cranky and rude
Any group of people that includes a dog-wear designer, an enema-bag musician, and an American sitcom-creating millionaire is bound to produce a few laughs. It's funny to watch these guys' vehement opposition to everything Rosenthal says. They all let him know how bad his ideas are, loudly and all at once. Their script meetings are like watching Rosenthal sit in a vodka filled dunk-tank, wincing at every throw.
3) There's a montage set to Britney Spears' "Toxic," so that's always good
When Rosenthal picks a popular visual artist's brain on how to make his show successful in Russia, the guy says he should make his show like Britney Spears, who's apparently big in Russia. The movie then breaks into a montage set to "Toxic" equipped with bouncing statues and stripper silhouettes. The scene itself isn't that funny, so much as the fact that Rosenthal, an American, takes the popularity of an American pop star as a sign that Russia is crazy. Know thyself, Rosenthal!
4) One of the outtakes has a singing fish
The blooper reel during the end credits may outshine the entire movie. There's one clip where a Russian theatre master turns on a singing fish, mid-conversation, then continues to talk as if nothing had changed. The rest of the movie would have benefited from more scenes like that one. By which I mean, scenes with singing fish.
5) To be fair to Rosenthal, the Russian sitcom formula is genuinely strange
Essentially, it works like this: take zany American sitcom, recast, and make even zanier. The Nanny, which I was sure had already set the standard for outrageous implausibility (who would pay Fran Drescher to be in their home?), got the Russian remake treatment, for example, and the clip of same included in Exporting Raymond features a man in a canary yellow skirt chasing the nanny from one side of a sliding closet door to the other. It was in Russian, which probably made it funnier. If I was Russian, it'd probably just seem like home.
6) The Russian TV network's head of comedy is not very funny, but irony is funny
Never, in history, has a more stern man been associated with comedy. Imagining him trying to joke is funny enough, but to watch him call Rosenthal unfunny was more than I could handle. Their on-screen showdown is all too short-lived. But in my head, I remade The Odd Couple in Russian, starring them. Comedy gold.