Reviewed By brianorndorf
Posted 07/25/08 08:06:59

"Mr. and Mrs. Jeffcoat would be proud"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

The opening titles refer to “Outsourced” as “A John Jeffcoat Film.” Now, I’ve seen hundreds of possessive credits in my time, but John Jeffcoat? Perhaps he’s a wonderful fellow who contributes regularly to charities and nurses sick puppies back to health in his spare time. However, I’m not sure he’s ready to proclaim himself a total cinematic experience just yet.

Still, “Outsourced” is an appealing film. Maybe this Jeffcoat guy is somebody to watch.

As a manager of a novelty product call center in Seattle, Todd (Josh Hamilton) is horrified to learn his job is being outsourced to India. Offered termination or a trip overseas to train his replacement, Todd takes the travel, arriving in a land that’s way beyond his comfort level. Meeting his trainees in a new, dilapidated office space, Todd is ordered to bring productivity to new, nearly unreachable levels. Teaching his staff the ways of dealing with irate American callers, Todd takes a shine to Asha (Ayesha Dharker, “Attack of the Clones”), and the two toss a few flirtations around while Todd hopes to assimilate into his new culture.

Jeffcoat isn’t aiming for the stars with “Outsourced,” he simply wants to pull together an amiable diversion that could play broadly, potentially enchanting a global audience. Take the film on that modest note and it’s a worthwhile diversion; a culture-clash comedy light on genuine laughs but heavily invested in character and performance. It’s nondescript, but sweetly engaging.

About 75% of the story is centered on Todd’s monumental adjustment to his new home, playing up familiar sights of a Yankee trying to grasp the idea of a chaotic society that rewards pick-pocketing, cherishes family unity, and remains toilet-paper shy. Jeffcoat doesn’t reach for cringe-worthy slapstick, merely keeping Todd in a state of easygoing confusion as he tries to survive the day without offending his hosts. The comedic beats are visible from miles away, and the familiarity of it all is what keeps “Outsourced” from ever truly finding a loaded comedic vein. Instead, the film offers a parade of smiles and appreciative nods while Todd goes about his business, trying to make a group of proud locals into productive American customer service reps.

Again, “Outsourced” isn’t funny, but it’s blessed with a fine cast that keeps the material afloat with their boundless enthusiasm. Hamilton makes for a kindly straight man, and his arc from clueless American to informed visitor (topped off with a colored powder baptism) is believable throughout due to his substantial efforts. Yet it’s the supporting cast of “Outsourced” that drives home the deepest impression, with Dharker giving the picture a shove of emotional reality as Todd’s doomed lover, and Asif Basra, who steals the movie as Todd’s Indian equivalent, who’s always there with a smile and a serious question about puzzling American colloquialisms. Basra is the sincerity “Outsourced” needs to keep itself out of sitcom jaws.

“Outsourced” left me satisfied if not exactly charged up; this romantic, fish-out-of-water comedy is an effective piece of entertainment, showcasing a different India: somewhere between its hellish realities of poverty and the colorful celebration of soul witnessed on a daily business. Come to it with few expectations, and the film will easily meet the viewer halfway.

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