A Yankee Follows His Job to Enlightenment
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“Outsourced” arrives in theaters with little fanfare, even though it seems to be far more relevant and realistic than that other movie about Americans exiled in India, Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited.” But director and co-writer John Jeffcoat doesn’t piggyback on the timeliness or impact of the subject matter, and turns “Outsourced” into a fairly accessible and inoffensive office comedy. The film is very entertaining if you’re not expecting some big-issue exposé.
Todd (Josh Hamilton) is the call-center manager for an online retailer specializing in patriotic novelty items. After shutting the doors on its operation in Seattle, the company dispatches him to India to train the replacements. Aside from having to explain the purposes of cheese hats and hot dog toasters to his staff, Todd can’t go home until the team’s deal-closing average is down to six minutes per call.
“Outsourced” unabashedly promotes American capitalism and consumerism — the stuff is made in China anyway, so what’s wrong with distributing it from India? Glossing over human costs on both sides of the Pacific, the movie adopts a pro-outsourcing stance: When a disgruntled, recently laid-off customer takes his frustration out on one of the operators, assistant manager Asha (Ayesha Dharker) steps in and calmly refers him to a competitor who has the American-made-and-sold version of what he wants to order — for $200 more. Next thing you know, she’s taking his credit card number. When Microsoft appears in the end credits as one of the film’s sponsors, somehow it all makes sense.
Like most films of its ilk, “Outsourced” reaffirms good old American values. The call center starts generating results only when Todd implements teamwork-oriented management. While it doesn’t have the kind of cultural sensitivity you’d find in a Mira Nair film, “Outsourced” is at the very least not condescending to foreign culture. After obligatory jokes about the Indian accent, the film goes on to downplay that stereotype in a scene that has Asha speaking and sounding convincingly Yankee. Todd isn’t the typical ugly American either, and soon he abandons his pursuit of that elusive cheeseburger to fully immerse himself in Indian culture. And unlike the parade of Japanese freaks in “Lost in Translation,” “Outsourced” is much more invested in its East Indian characters. The only thing that seems off-kilter is the after-hours rendezvous between Asha and Todd, considering people don’t even kiss in Bollywood movies.