Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated that the Jamie Kennedy character was mistaken for a Russian spy, and incorrectly identified “the camouflage-sporting village leader” as Ahmed (Serdar Kalsin). Kennedy’s character was mistaken for a Turkish spy. The village leader is Alexan (Hrant Tokhatyan). This version has been corrected.
While vacationing in Turkey, the American son of a powerful U.S. Senator accidentally parasails into the neighboring country of Armenia. Mistaken by local government officials to be a Turkish spy, the man is mercilessly interrogated by his captors until a beautiful female student breaks through the language barrier and comes to his aid.
Convince someone along the lines of Daniel Craig or Clive Owen to take the lead role and you’ve got the makings of a globetrotting political thriller. Cast third-rate comedian Jamie Kennedy, though, and you end up with “Lost and Found in Armenia,” a broad, silly, dated and insensitive mistake of a movie co-written and directed by Gor Kirakosian.
“Lost and Found” resembles those lowbrow, one-joke comedies Pauly Shore used to crank out near the end of his film career, just to stay employed — something like “Jury Duty” or “In the Army Now.” Kennedy stars, but the majority of the movie leans on a mixture of Russian, Azeri-Turkish and Armenian performers speaking in their native tongue. As a result, “Lost and Found” relies heavily on subtitles. Unfortunately, reading the film’s immature jokes doesn’t make them funnier.
Kennedy plays Bill, a senator’s son whose heart recently was broken by a girl we never meet. His best friend, George (Dave Sheridan), coaxes him to go on vacation to Turkey, where Bill is expected to forget this shrew and start living life again. But the aforementioned parasailing accident carries our clueless protagonist to Armenia, where he contends with a village of suspicious peasants and eventually befriends a beautiful college student named Ani (Angela Sarafyan).
Sarafyan, it should be noted, is strikingly beautiful, with an angular face and feline eyes that convey concern and empathy when she has to educate Bill on the hardships of life in Armenia. Because she’s the only person in Armenia who understands English, she’s tapped to be Bill’s translator and, obviously, his love interest. Kennedy, meanwhile, isn’t asked to do much beyond reacting to a series of idiotic sequences with a dumbfounded stare. He has that down pat.
Kennedy might be the only recognizable face in the ensemble, but he largely takes a back seat as “Lost and Found” wastes chunks of time on the cartoonish physical antics of the Armenian townsfolk. Grandpa Matsak (Mikael Pogosyan) acts as the town’s inept interrogator, prone to shouting at Kennedy or hitting him with a boot. Alexan (Hrant Tokhatyan) is the camouflage-sporting village leader, who views himself as the local dictator and suspects Bill as being part of a larger espionage scheme.
These aren’t characters. They are one-note spoofs of cookie-cutter “foreign” stereotypes even Yakov Smirnoff would dismiss as tedious. The last time this style of hackneyed cultural humor generated significant belly laughs, episodes of “Hogan’s Heroes” were an audience’s only options. Forty years ago, Peter Sellers might have been able to squeeze laughs out of this tone-deaf material.
But we’ve evolved, both as a society and as an audience. Specifically, we’ve seen Sacha Baron Cohen eviscerate imbalanced international relations in bitingly sarcastic comedies such as “Borat” and “The Dictator.” By comparison, “Lost and Found” isn’t quaint. It’s obsolete.
O’Connell is a freelance writer.
Unrated. At AMC Loews Rio 18. Contains adult language and some scenes of violence. 100 minutes.