A lighthearted comedy of immigration and assimilation, “The Tiger Hunter” charts the ambitions of a young Indian man who travels to America in 1979, determined to honor the legacy of his game-hunting father and to impress the woman he’s loved since they were children. The feature debut from director Lena Khan has a cheerful and not untimely can-do spirit, but is just a few notches better than a fish-out-of-water sitcom.
Sami Malik (Danny Pudi of “Community”) puts his engineering degree to work in India by repairing appliances in his village free of charge, or for next to nothing. When he receives an offer of an engineering job in Chicago, Sami’s entire village pitches in to send him to America. But the position falls through, and instead he takes a job as a draftsman, befriending a fellow entry-level employee (Jon Heder of “Napoleon Dynamite”), whose father happens to be the company’s CEO.
Pudi is likable as a tech-smart but socially naive rube who’s eager to learn about baseball to fit in with such high-level engineers as Kenneth (Sam Page), who’s heading a project to develop a microwave oven that can heat food evenly without exploding. Naturally, Sami works on his own solution to the TV-dinner conundrum, aided by the motley group of fellow immigrants with whom he shares a crowded apartment.
The movie stresses the importance of teamwork and being yourself, and the broad comedy is delivered well by its sprawling cast. Of special note is Rizwan Manji of NBC’s “Outsourced,” playing Sami’s roommate, a Pakistani chef who has an unusual obsession with “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Thanks to the director Khan — who co-wrote the script and has an obvious fondness for her characters — “The Tiger Hunter” transcends comic stereotypes. But its predictable success-story arc isn’t entirely convincing. Nevertheless, the movie is an encouraging look at the American Dream, at a time when it too often seems like a nightmare.
Unrated. At Regal’s Countryside Stadium 20 and Kingstowne Stadium 16 & RPX. Contains mild violence. 94 minutes.