Focus Features via Everett Collection
Listen up, nerds! Get ready to high-five a million angels, because Tina Fey is making her way back to the big screen. Everyone’s favorite funny lady is attached to produce and star in The Taliban Shuffle, based on the book by journalist Kim Barker, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The film, which will be set in 2002, will follow Barker as she travels to Kabul on assignment, with very little travel experience and the inability to speak a single word of Arabic. However, the more time she spends in the Middle East, the fonder she grows of the people and the culture, while at the same time coming to the realization that peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan might be impossible. Although there’s not yet a director attached to the project, Fey’s longtime collaborator Robert Carlock has signed on to write the script.
At first glance, The Taliban Shuffle seems like an odd choice for Fey, whose comedic style tends to be goofier and more off-the-wall than would be fitting for a film about a Middle Eastern journalist. Her previous projects have generally capitalized on that, although she recently moved into more dramatic territory with the film Admission. However, this was the most poorly received of her films, which may mean that Fey is generally more suited to wierder projects, and The Taliban Shuffle doesn’t sound like it easily lends itself to the quickfire cutaways and strange visual gags that have become her signature over the seven-year run of 30 Rock. But even though Fey and Barker sound like an odd couple, the film might actually be tailor-made for the comedian.
Barker’s book, which deals with the intense political climate of the Middle East through a comedic lense, has been described as “Tina Fey-esque,” which makes Fey the perfect choice to bring it to the big screen. Since she first rose to fame on Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update, she has a great deal of experience finding the humor in politics and major news stories, and audiences are also used to seeing her take on politicians — after all, her Sarah Palin impression is probably the most well-known and well-loved thing she has done in her career — which would make it easier for them to accept her in a role that probably calls for a bit more gravitas than Liz Lemon did.
Until The Taliban Shuffle, Fey’s films have always given her another big-name comedian to play off of onscreen, from Amy Poehler in Baby Mama to Paul Rudd in Admission. This time around, though, it seems as if Fey will need to carry the film on her own, which makes Carlock’s presence as screenwriter the most positive sign for this film. Carlock and Fey have worked together for years, and their friendship dates back to their Saturday Night Live days. Not only does he have experience finding the humor in serious and sometimes controversial topics, but he also understands how to write for Fey in a way that plays to her strengths. The success of the film will depend solely on Fey’s performance, but with Carlock on board, there’s no doubt that they will find a way to allow her to carry The Taliban Shuffle the same way that she carried 30 Rock for seven seasons.
Fey has had a difficult time translating her television success into a box-office smash. None of her films has been an outright flop, but the fact remains that Fey is a much bigger force in television than she is in film. However, The Taliban Shuffle might just be the movie that will finally establish her as a movie star and bring her the same kind of success that she has enjoyed with SNL and 30 Rock. And even though the film could be a perfect fit for her, the subject matter is just surprising enough to help attract interest in the film, as many moviegoers will be intrigued to see Fey break out of her comfort one somewhat with a political dramedy.
Fey’s next television venture, Tooken, will have a lot to live up to after the massive success of 30 Rock. But the only thing that The Taliban Shuffle needs to be successful is to be funny, and Fey and Carlock teaming up once again should help it deliver on that front. Everything it needs to be a hit is present, which means all that’s left for us to do is wait until it finally hits theaters, and audiences will finally get the iconic Tina Fey movie they’ve been waiting for. There’s only so many times that you can re-watch Mean Girls, after all.