Located at the southernmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula, the Republic of Yemen is known for being a growing source of natural gas and a Middle Eastern political hot spot. It is not regarded for its salmon population, however – a fact that billionaire fly-tying enthusiast Sheikh Muhammed (Waked) wants to correct by creating a fish-friendly lake in the region.
Britain’s federal fisheries expert (McGregor) thinks the concept is ludicrous. Given a U.K. military snafu in Afghanistan, however, the Prime Minister’s press secretary (Scott Thomas) is fast-tracking the Sheikh’s proposed folly as a PR salve. And so, our fussy government employee is forcibly paired with Muhammed’s personal girl Friday (Blunt) to make this impossible dream a reality.
There is little doubt that McGregor’s manic civil servant and Blunt’s cool-cucumber assistant will fall in love; that the film’s Arabic version of a Magical Negro will dispense homilies on Eastern-exotica enlightenment; that an MIA-soldier boyfriend and hostile locals will eventually come into play; and that, per usual, director Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) will do his damnedest to cause early-onset diabetes in his viewers.
It’s a shameless affair even by this veteran sap purveyor’s standards, a mushy combination of dreamy travelogue (did Yemen’s tourism board commission this?) and dewey-eyed wish fulfillment that makes its source material, Paul Torday’s 2006 anglerphile novel, seem positively complex by comparison. Only Kristin Scott Thomas channeling In the Loop’s Malcolm Tucker offers a spark; the rest is simply hokum designed to land overly sentimental suckers hook, line and sinker.