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Egypt really needs to upgrade its witness-protection program. At least that’s the case made by Hassan and Morcos, a movie about the poisonous street-level relations between Muslims and Christians. Sheikh Mahmoud (Omar Sharif) and Boulos (Adel Imam), a Coptic theologian, are forced to go undercover after symmetrical attempts on their lives by extremists of their own sects. So Boulos becomes Sheikh Hassan El-Attar, and Mohmoud becomes Morcos the Christian, and they meet—both taken in by the other’s disguise—in a Cairo safehouse. There, they become partners in a bakery, their families duke it out over whether one’s okra stew is better than the other’s mouloukhia, and Boulos’ son Guergues falls for Mahmoud’s daughter Fatima. The neighborhood doesn’t warm to the idea of Christians palling around with Muslims, and the mistaken-identity slapstick of the first half spins into bloody allegory with the pace of a made-for-TV movie. Production values are similarly negligible (a crowd scene in which two dozen locals clamor for blessings outside Sheikh Hassan’s door constitutes something of a set piece), and the moral (“we’re not so different after all!”) gets old pretty quick. Ham-handed juxtapositions and broad character sketches evidently played well—and sparked controversy—in Egyptian theaters, but they’ll rarely raise more than a chuckle or an eyebrow among U.S. audiences.
Saturday at 7 p.m. at Regal Gallery Place. Also at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 19 at the Avalon.