Here’s a real interesting success story. Born in 1978, actor/scriptwriter/director Ahmed Mekky decided to become a filmmaker after watching Mel Gibson’s wartime epic “Braveheart in the mid-90s.
The younger sibling of actress Enas Mekky, he began his acting career with a small role in Sherif Arafa’s “Ibn Ezz (2002), starring the late Alaa Waly Eldin.
The following year, Mekky directed the little-seen short “El Hassa El Sabaa (The Seventh Sense) while studying directing at the Higher Institute of Cinema in Egypt. Far from the serious-minded literary adaptations and avant-garde experiments usually produced by students of the institute, “Seventh Sense was a quirky, original little comedy, despite the similarities to Nancy Meyers’ “What Women Want.
The film revolved around a young, hapless man enlisting the help of a sorcerer to win the world title of Taekwondo by acquiring the ability to read people’s mind.
Reluctant to turn it into a full-length feature, Mekky was pushed to direct a longer adaptation of his short film in 2005. Also called “The Seventh Sense, Mekky’s directorial debut – starring Ahmed El-Feshawy – received mixed reviews and flopped at the box-office.
Both versions of “Seventh Sense heralded a new talent, edgy and imaginative. The following year, Mekky returned to acting with the Ramadan sitcom “Tamer & Shawkeya, also starring Ahmed El-Feshawy.
Mekky played Haitham “H Dabbour, the spoiled, Americanized, self-absorbed best bud of El-Feshawy’s character. Donning a big afro and togged up in baggy shorts and tight t-shirts, Dabbour was a send-up of the self-proclaimed “cool Egyptians, armed with every well-known slang and gesture in the book.
Dabbour became an instant success, and Mekky was given the opportunity to reprise his hit role alongside Egypt’s biggest comedy draw Adel Imam in last summer’s box-office champion “Morgan Ahmed Morgan.
It was only a matter of time before Mekky followed the footsteps of Mohamed Saad and Ahmed Adam, bringing his most famous character to the silver screen with a full-length feature film.
The final outcome is somehow predictable. While not as ghastly as “El Limby, “H Dabbour, is still a disappointment; a middle-of-the-road comedy that serves no purpose but to present Mekky as the latest leading man of Egyptian cinema.
Having hinted briefly on his family history in “Tamer & Shawkeya and “Morgan, scriptwriters Ahmed Fahmy and Mohamed Al Motassem re-imagine Dabbour’s background via a clichéd, tired plot. Hassan Hosni, in another inconsequential role, plays Dabbour’s father, a self-made hair-products entrepreneur on the brink of unleashing a new revolutionary shampoo.
His plans are hampered when his biggest rival, Latifa El Baghdady (Hala Fakher), plots an obvious scheme to sabotage his plans and chucks him in prison.
After the crushing fall of the Dabbour empire, Dabbour Jr. finds himself penniless and betrayed by his disingenuous friends. With nowhere to go, H takes shelter at his chauffeur’s (Lotfi Labib) impoverished flat. Dabbour soon falls for the chauffeur’s daughter Rawheya (Engy Wegdan, playing a different role from her turn in Tamer & Shawkeya). He also befriends the dumb, Limby-like junkie Kalousha (Sameh Hussein) and learns the value of hard work and real friendship while attempting to rescue his father and restore their business.
I honestly didn’t expect the Dabbour fever to spread as wide as it did. For starters, I couldn’t stand “Tamer & Shawkeya, not only because of the unbelievably sloppy writing, but also due to its excessively annoying characters.
Dabbour was clearly the main attraction, but I found Mekky too self-conscious to leave a long-lasting impression. His second stint at “Morgan was a different story though. The writing was far better, Mekky was much more at ease and his scenes with Imam were probably the best in the movie.
The problem with “Dabbour is not Mekky. On the contrary, Mekky proves to be a reliable comedic star, combing his brand of physical comedy with spot-on comic timing. “Dabbour, simply, is not that funny.
The story is too banal to induce big laughs. The theme of a spoilt kid/young man pushed to the real world where he learns the importance of bravery and nobility has been done to death, from Victor Fleming’s “Captains Courageous in 1937 until “Ibn Ezz. There are no tangible variations on the theme, except for the swarm of pop culture references director Ahmed El Guindy milks to the last drop.
A few are actually quite amusing. The best one involves Kalousha’s mother who, it turns out, is the elderly, overweight lady from the Melody Trix channel ad who “kesbet feelos keteera faht (won a lot of money) and marries a man half her age.
The majority totally misses the mark though, and Mekky’s antics, despite his screen command, quickly grow weary. In order to cover this unavoidable blunder, Al Motassem and Fahmy peppered the dialogue with risqué language, including one derivative of the “F word, a pc version of a famous Arabic curse word and a pie shop called “Khod Fiterak!
Supporting characters fail to provide a proper cover-up, none of whom succeed in standing toe to toe with Mekky.
While sentimentality is kept to a minimum, it is not entirely averted. A mock-up torture scene featuring Egyptian film “El Karnak and a comic allusion to the Chinese invasion presented in the form of a Chinese beans store offers a glimpse of what could have been a better film.
What “Dabbour lacks the most though is spontaneity. Every scene, every line, every stunt feels artificial and bloated. The film is almost completely composed of separate sketches designed to highlight Mekky’s comedic chops.
All could’ve been forgiven, including the insipid story and Mohamed Abdel Moety’s irritating scriptwriter character, had the film been funny. Instead, viewers hungry for laughs in a season where comedy took a backseat to big dramas had to settle for a few intermittent chuckles and grins.
“Dabbour is a trivial comedy whose makers opted to make a quick buck out of a highly popular character instead of spending the effort to create a piece of proper entertainment.
With his small turn in “The Baby Doll Night earlier this summer, Mekky exhibited an astonishing depth few could’ve predicted. He’s probably one of the country’s most promising stars and his vow to never recreate Dabbour could be a step in the right direction.