If “The Tiger Hunter” had been presented as the pilot for a new network television show, it would have had a decent chance of making one of the schedules. It has the nostalgic feel of “The Goldbergs” as it takes place in the early ’70s in Chicago. “The Tiger Hunter” also embraces the same kind of diversity in casting that got shows such as “Fresh Off the Boat” on the air. And, it stars Danny Pudi, an actor who fit beautifully into the ensemble cast of “Community.”
Alas, this is not a potential TV show but a big screen release that gets little mileage out of the time period, fails to fully use the diverse cast except for some stereotyped actions and puts Pudi in the spotlight where it becomes glaringly obvious some actors are better suited for TV. His performance in the film isn’t bad, he just doesn’t have the kind of acting essence needed to be in a larger-than-life setting.
It doesn’t help that from the setup to the conclusion, each page of the script is loaded with material that comes right out of the situation comedy world.
Co-writer Sameer Asad Gardezi and director/co-writer Lena Khan have given us the story of Sami Malik (Pudi), a young engineering student from India, who decides to leave his home, family and the girl (Karen David) he secretly loves to find success in America. Part of his decision to leave is that he feels like he can no longer live in the shadow of his father, a man heralded for his prowess at killing tigers.
As soon as Malik makes it to Chicago, the sitcom elements begin to flow. The job he thought he had has been eliminated and he must start in the bowels of the company amid other dreamers who have lost their will to succeed. The only person who seems to have any energy is fellow worker, Alex (Jon Heder), and his story is the stuff of countless sitcom plots.
Malik, who has only 30 days to find a way to stay in America, meets Babu (Rizwan Manji), a fast talker who invites Malik to share his apartment. It’s a small room that looks more like a clown car with 10 to 15 occupants.
The bulk of the movie is Malik trying to get someone to believe he has first-rate engineering skills and to prove to General Iqbal (Iqbal Theba), the father of the girl he loves, that he’s a worthy suitor.
It falls to Pudi to pull the elements together. But he just doesn’t fill out the big-screen demands of being a stranger in a strange land, a charming suitor or as a son looking for respect.
Overall, there’s nothing painfully wrong with “The Tiger Hunter.” But it will be released on DVD soon and that’s really a better way to watch the production.