The final installment in actor-director Assi Dayan’s comic trilogy about contemporary Israeli life, “Mr. Baum” fails to reach the level of the appreciated opener, “Life According to Agfa.” Black comedy about a man whose doctor gives him an hour and a half (pic’s running time) to live, the film courageously confronts the taboo theme of death and dying, which probably won’t help it any at the domestic B.O. Though it piques the curiosity, the great jokes that would make it work outside Israel just aren’t there, leaving limited commercial possibilities.
Dayan, once a local matinee idol, ages himself to play Mr. Baum, a balding ad exec more preoccupied with his job (a new campaign for purple sunglasses) than with his family (a wife and teenage daughter absorbed in their own worlds, a son in the army). When his M.D. sadistically tells him he has an “aggressive” brain tumor destined to kill him in an hour and a half, Baum hastily tries to put his life in order.
He wastes time meeting with a tipsy Japanese client, gets stuck in a traffic jam and fantasizes about bedding a shop girl he’s lusted after for years. He imagines how, at his funeral, his relatives and acquaintances will regret having mistreated him — a scene that gets repetitious when refrained for the sixth or seventh time.
Pic’s humor lies in showing, over and over again, how life’s banality overwhelms even Baum’s sacred confrontation with death. But although the situation has lots of comic potential, Dayan the scriptwriter-director is quite a ways off from being an Israeli Woody Allen, and the humor of “Mr. Baum” merits no more than an occasional smile.