Exporting Raymond

EXPORTING RAYMOND is a documentary that follows Everybody Loves Raymond sitcom creator Phil Rosenthal as he travels to Russia to oversee their adaptation of the show.  It came out on DVD this week.

And, much to my surprise, it’s one of the better films I’ve seen this year.  Seriously.

Besides the fact that it’s just generally hilarious, it’s also disarmingly charming, sweet, and fascinating.  How do you translate a sitcom like that?  What does Russia find funny that we don’t and vice versa?  Is there much to translate at all, or are we exactly alike?

I think adaptations are wonderful.  More often than not people like to dump on them as if they’re a lazy cop-out to creating something original.  Beyond the fact that there’s really nothing truly original anymore (and there hasn’t been for centuries), what’s so bad about bringing something to a new audience?  Every time a foreign film or property is remade by Hollywood people’s knee-jerk reaction is always “what’s wrong with the original?”  “Typical Hollywood.”  And so on.

What’s wrong with the original?  Nothing.  The original is probably great, that’s why we want to adapt it and share it with more people. Doesn’t mean it has to be dumbed down or cheapened (though a lot of the time it is, but still).

Subtitles seem to freak people out in America.  Or at least that’s what people think.  Americans are far more tolerant of subtitles than the rest of the world.  I think dubbing would freak people out even more as we’re not used to it outside of bad Kung-Fu and Godzilla movies.  Here in Europe, and elsewhere, they dub everything.  It’s easier, and they’re used to the lack of lip-syncing.  They admittedly don’t want to read.  And even I sometimes just don’t want to deal with subtitles.  It’s understandable.  It makes sense.

I’m getting sidetracked.  A remake or adaptation does make something more commercially viable, obviously, because of the language and actors.  But culturally it’s also fascinating.  And it wasn’t until only recently that we starting exporting this kind of stuff.  The sitcom The Nanny has been made all over the world over and over.  The film Sideways was recently remade in Japan.  This is interesting to me.  I live to share, and an adaptation is bigger form of sharing for me.  Maybe it’s why nearly every time I write, or am tempted to write, it’s an adaptation of some kind.  I may have a dearth of original ideas, but I find I have more to say, and am better at saying it, using the structure made by others anyhow.

So, yes, for all of this and more I found EXPORTING RAYMOND to be engrossing.  It doesn’t hurt that Rosenthal comes off as a genuinely interesting, charming, and all around nice guy.  Almost anti-show business.  Even though that’s his business and it’s what he battles in the film.  A pleasant surprise all around.  Please do check it out.

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About shrubbo

Coming to you from Los Angeles, California. Movies, life, travel, stuff, movies, and movies.

Posted on August 11, 2011, in Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I heard about this on NPR a while ago and it didn’t sound very interesting, but I’ll try to catch it on your recommendation (which is how I find half the interesting things in the world.)

    I admit I sometimes complain about remakes. There are so many people who have ideas that are at least a little bit fresh – even if it’s just the same story with a new coat of paint (“Paranormal Activity” comes to mind.) I drove past a billboard for the new “The Thing” and even the artwork looks similar to the Kurt Russell version, which was already a remake. I guess maybe they’re trying to get two demos – the new viewers and the nostalgia crowd, even if fans of the original just intend to trash it (they get your money either way.) The good news is that film making equipment is so cheap compared to what it used to be, and paired with the internet, anybody who wants to share a story can make it happen (of course, that can be a bad thing too.) And I really like your point about sharing good material with more people, especially those who might discount a good story because the movie is dated.

  2. Exactly. I’d like to believe that the people who choose to dedicate themselves to making a remake/adaptation are doing so because they want to share the story and hope to enhance it for the new, potentially larger audience.

    I realize on the business side though that they’re usually given the go-ahead because it’s an easier sell to people. But that’s just the business side.

    This reminds me I need to watch the US version of Let the Right One In. It’s been on my Netflix queue for a long while now.

    • Also, just found out that the new The Thing is actually a prequel to the 80’s version covering what happened to the Norwegian crew that arrived before the other crew. But you’d never know that by the title. Or preview. Hell, I just accidentally read about it.

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