The Big Sick, film review: This tiny movie is a little miracle

Watching this Judd Apatow-produced romcom is like clicking on a for-real YouTube clip of a kitten juggling spoons. Cute. Clever. No wonder The Big Sick has gone viral.

Gentle, non-devout Pakistani-American Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is trying to break into stand-up comedy. His parents believe in arranged marriages (it’s taken as read that a white wife would be beyond the pale). So it’s a problem when Kumail falls for blisteringly witty graduate Emily (Zoe Kazan). She wants to introduce him to her North Carolina mum (Holly Hunter) and New York dad (Ray Romano). But Kumail’s not ready to meet the parents, because his own parents aren’t ready to be met.

Comedy vet Nanjiani wrote this script with his wife, Emily V Gordon. It’s the story of how they got together, despite (or perhaps because of) a mysterious illness that forced doctors to put Gordon into a medically induced coma, during which time her parents flew into Chicago to be by her side.

Nanjiani resembles a deadpan, Elvis-haired cherub. Though 39, he’s completely plausible as a millennial. And with his comedy background, he’s extremely funny.

Meanwhile, Kazan is the human equivalent of petrichor (the lovely smell produced when parched soil gets rained on). With her big nose and small chin, she’s proof that you don’t have to be symmetrical to be desirable. And the way her droopy eyes flash (during a toilet-related meltdown and, later, a confession about heavy drinking) ensure Emily is on our mind, even when the character’s out cold.

I don’t want to say too much about Hunter and Romano because their brilliance works best if you expect them, simply, to act as foils. Suffice to say, Hunter displays the same kind of barely contained mania that made her turn in Raising Arizona so fizzy. And Romano is a comedy god.

The Big Sick, made for nuppence, has already broken box-office records. Apparently the gags about Malala, IS and 9/11 get the loudest laughs.

There are flaws. The direction is ho-hum and a sub-plot involving Kumail’s wacky comedy pals is increasingly irksome. Meanwhile, one of Kumail’s prospective wives belongs in a sitcom. If the plot were any tidier, cynics would be entitled to dub this The Big Shtick.

Luckily, Apatow’s gang keeps faith with mess. Praise be to God (or Allah), this tiny movie is a little miracle.

Cert 15, 120mins