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`Outsourced' character gets into India.

Byline: Jim Keogh


In "Outsourced," a young Seattle executive is dispatched to a call center in India to train a contingent of low-paid employees in how to "sound American" when someone places an order for one of the tacky all-American novelties the company peddles. Those telemarketing jobs once belonged to U.S. workers, so the idea is that callers will be less than amused if the person on the other end of the line sounds more Bombay than Green Bay.

The results of the indoctrination can be hysterical. From the shabby building, under the curious gaze of sacred cows at the doorway, men with curry-sharp accents try to pass themselves off as "Larry" from Chicago and refrain from initiating small talk about cricket matches.

In the film's most telling scene, an irate caller insists he will never purchase a product from an Indian operator - until he learns the same item bought from a certifiable-American supplier will cost him $200 more. He puts his outrage aside and buys. Red, white and blue are beautiful, but green talks.

"Outsourced," with its genial fish-out-of-water bemusement plays like a descendant of the 1983 gem "Local Hero," another film that deposited a jaded American businessman in a foreign country (Scotland in that one) whose mores both baffled and enchanted him.

The culture-shock stuff is old hat - how inevitable is the gag about the tourist suffering intestinal distress from eating unfamiliar foods? But the low-key Josh Hamilton as Todd Anderson, the dislocated exec, does a nice job embodying the effect of emerging globalism on a corporate schmo (whose tasks in India include training his own replacement on the management team). Hamilton, writer John Jeffcoat, and co-writers Jeffcoat and George Wing are more interested in making their points with observational humor that stresses Todd's desire to adapt to his surroundings rather than resist them. Their choice to keep the tone breezy is a wise one - shrillness almost never pays off.

Of course the transition is made easier with a love interest, the call center's most gifted saleswoman, Asha (Ayesha Dharker). It's Asha who suggests that Todd - who preaches to his employees their need to learn about America - discovery the finer points of India. Thankfully, that journey toward enlightenment isn't laden with an army of eccentrics and stereotypes. Indeed, Todd's most eye-opening encounter is with a family of meager means who invited him to a simple dinner and engage him in "conversation" through hand and facial gestures that substitute for their inability to communicate verbally.

Once Todd loosens up a little, he becomes a better manager, and a better man. Lesson learned.

"Outsourced" never exceeds its ambition to be a cross-cultural romantic comedy, and that's OK. The movie is a small charmer suffused with enough sly wit to appeal to anyone in the mood for some light fun on a spring evening.

"Outsourced" will be shown at 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday, and at 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Jefferson Academic Center at Clark University as part of the Cinema 320 film series.


* * *

A Shadowcatcher Entertainment release.

Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content

Running time: 1 hour and 43 minutes


CUTLINE: Josh Hamilton stars in "Outsourced."
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 17, 2008
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