When Philip Rosenthal, the creator of the hit CBS sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond," was approached by Sony Pictures Television to coordinate a Russian version of the show in Moscow, he was wary. A friend suggested he take out K&R insurance – that's short for "kidnap and ransom."
In "Exporting Raymond," Rosenthal serves up a hilarious documentary of his travails developing "The Voroniny," or, as it was known in development, "Everybody Loves Kostya."
I did not know until I saw this film that there exists a thriving business redoing American sitcoms for Russian audiences, starting in 2004 with "The Nanny," followed by "Who's the Boss?" and "Married With Children." Often the American scripts are simply (or not so simply) rejiggered to fit Russian tastes, which tend to be even broader and more slapstick than American tastes.
Rosenthal, invariably polite and often bewildered throughout his increasingly surreal experience, assumed "Raymond" would make the transition easily because it deals with universally ordinary family situations. It turns out that the Russians aren't very big on "ordinary."
Calamities accrue: The costume designer wants to dress the characters in the latest stylish fashions; the actor playing Raymond is suddenly forbidden by his boss at the Moscow Art Theater to do the show; his replacement is about as funny as a morgue.
What makes "Exporting Raymond" more than just a funny sketchbook are its insights into the mutability of comedy.
It's a cliché that comedy is a universal language, and that's certainly true – except when it isn't. Grade: B+ (Rated PG for brief language and smoking.)