It's war on humour as film-makers try to find the funny side of 9/11

By Andrew Gumbel

We've had the earnest, ponderous round of films about post-9/11 America, most of which have sunk without trace at the box office. Now, barely six years after the attacks that triggered two wars and sent America's international reputation plummeting, it's time for the comedies.

There's no guarantee, of course, that these will fare any better, but, for some of them, that won't be for the want of an almost heroic lack of taste. They could just put to rest the opinion, put forward by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and much echoed among America's intellectual elite, that September 11 made irony impossible.

Take Postal, a crass comedy of al Qaeda manners directed by Uwe Boll, a man frequently honoured as "worst film-maker alive".

The film starts with two September 11 hijackers arguing about the exact number of virgins awaiting them as martyrs in paradise. They call Osama bin Laden himself and, when he tells them they can expect no more than 20 virgins, they decide to change course and head to the Bahamas.

Funny? Maybe not. But it is more or less guaranteed to cause enough offence to spill days' or weeks' worth of ink in the gossip press and on cable news. Especially since it also features "a gang of bosomy commandos who face off against Bin Laden and the Taleban in an epic battle that will determine the fate of the world".

If that doesn't sound moronic enough, then try Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, the latest in a burgeoning film series about two irredeemable potheads and their adventures.

It's been widely described as "Cheech and Chong meet the war on terror", and human rights campaigners concerned about everything from suicides to due process at the Guantanamo prison camp are not amused.

And then there's Zombie Strippers, which casts porn actress Jenna Jameson in an explicit caper which begins with the US military reviving dead soldiers to carrying on fighting in Iraq.

More obviously engaging is Morgan Spurlock's follow-up to his hit documentary about fast-food hell, Super Size Me. The new film, out this weekend in the US, is called Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? and it follows Spurlock on his travels to Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Afghanistan and Pakistan on the decidedly whimsical trail of America's most wanted man.

He doesn't find him, of course, but he speaks to enough ordinary Middle Easterners - everyone from rug salesmen to imams - to demystify both Bin Laden himself and the Middle East as a whole.

Perhaps the most promising of the upcoming crop is War Inc., a satire about war profiteering starring and co-written by John Cusack. It's the story of a hitman hired by a company to take over an entire Middle Eastern country.

JUST FOR LAUGHS

Postal: Osama bin Laden and the Taleban face off with a gang of bosomy commandos.
Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay: Cheech and Chong meet the war on terror.
Zombie Strippers: Porn stars help bring back dead soldiers to keep fighting in Iraq.
Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame searches for the world's most wanted terrorist.
War Inc: A hit man is hired by a company not unlike Halliburton to take over an entire Middle Eastern country.

- INDEPENDENT

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