Raghdan Aziz (Nikesh Patel) is living the good life on the Atlantic coast. He has few responsibilities in life, his days are spent surfing, and his nights are filled with partying and goofing around with his buddies.
But Raghdan’s feckless existence comes to an abrupt end when his father Amir (Art Malik) shows up in town unexpectedly. Amir has purchased a recently shuttered meat-packing plant in Sligo and aims to give Raghdan a purpose by putting him in charge of a fledgling halal meat business.
Conor McDermottroe’s latest feature boasts a strong cast with many familiar faces. Colm Meaney is gruff and hardened as former abattoir manager Martin Logan. Art Malik excels as the stern father figure.
The two men play well against one another too, forming something of classic double act. Once Upon a Time’s Sarah Bolger works opposite Patel as sweary, pizza-delivery girl Maeve. Her exchanges with him are among the funniest in the picture.
Classic comedy cinema often found its focus in culture clashes. The Cohens and Kellys series of films is a good example of this type of movie.
Kids from different cultures fall in love and their parents put aside their differences and find that they actually have more in common than they initially thought.
Those concerned about spoilers shouldn’t worry. Halal Daddy is not as cut-and-dry as the description above, but some of its comedy is as tried-and-true as a hundred other melting-pot comedies.
Much of the humour in Halal Daddy comes from the misunderstandings that characters have about one another and their respective cultures.
Martin, in an attempt to impress his new boss, jumps the gun on buying Arabic lessons on tape, and later hires belly dancers for the opening of the abattoir. Boney M provides the soundtrack for this sequence, an equally misguided choice.
There is a sweetness to all of these misunderstandings. Martin is, for the most part, well-meaning in his actions and some of the movies funnier moments come from his misconceptions about father and son, and Muslims in general.
It’s admirable that the film doesn’t rely on shock value for big laughs. There’s an innocence to the set-up and pay-off on show. It’s refreshing to see a film that mostly stays away from the cringe-inducing humour of recent American culture-clash comedies.
Other sequences show a fondness for the oddball characters of Sligo itself. There are a couple of standout interview montages where characters present themselves to the camera. I enjoyed the “mockumentary” style of these scenes.
Moreover, the film shows time and time again that everyone could stand to know each other a bit better. Halal Daddy’s comedy, and its drama, stem from a lack of communication.
Early in the film Raghdan misreads the relationship between Maeve and a local horticulturist, Jasper. Raghdan sucker punches Jasper, and his relationship with Maeve reaches a low point. Later, we see the same mistakes been made between father and son.
Tonally, Halal Daddy is a little uneven. It wants (and tries) to be funny more than anything else. However, I found the film to be jarringly dramatic.
At times, Halal Daddy seems to be two very different films battling it out for supremacy. In one sequence, following a betrayal of Raghdan’s trust, he exchanges harsh and heartfelt words with his father. It’s something that wouldn’t feel out of place in a serious-minded drama.
Halal Daddy feels like a very different film in these sequences that focus solely on Malik and Patel. These are convincing performances but feel too raw, and come off as out of place in comparison to the rest of the film.
Halal Daddy is a little rough around the edges. You can see a lot of its jokes coming a mile off. Chances are you could guess a number of them before even seeing the film.
Still, there’s a certain charm to this predictability. Halal Daddy excels as a feel-good picture, that has its heart in the right place.