Despite a title that evokes images of harrowing adventure and epic thrills, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” turns out to be a rather bland movie going experience. And as intent can be hard to convey with the written word I will come right out and say that I am being sarcastic. “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is a bland movie going experience that is EXACTLY what you would expect from a film entitled “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”. If nothing else at least this is a rare example of “truth in advertising”.
Not that the film is horrible, it is just incredibly vanilla, middle-of-the-road filmmaking that leaves the middling taste of average in one’s mouth when finished. This becomes disappointing, however, when you look at the film’s contributors: Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “The Cider House Rules” [The guy sure does love long titles, huh?]). Written by Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “127 Hours”). Starring the attractive and talented Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt. With these folks involved, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” should have been better and not a glowing example of forgettable fluff.
Based on a novel by Paul Torday, “Salmon Fishing” is actually a story of the very rich Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked) who wants to go fishing in Yemen but unfortunately there are no permanent Yemeni rivers. So the man decides to make one and fill it with salmon so that he may fish them out. With the help and guidance of his London-based liaison, Harriet (Blunt), the sheikh purchases the services of a fishery expert named Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor) to figure out how to get 10,000 salmon to live and thrive in the desert.
The guts of the story are actually of the love persuasion and we find that Dr. Jones is stuck in a loveless marriage while Harriet gets the news that her boyfriend of three weeks is M.I.A. in Afghanistan. The two find each other out there in the desert as they try to achieve the impossible.
While the premise is interesting enough and the film begins with the familiar air of casualness you find in the standard British Romantic Comedy, things bog down after awhile with the mishandling of the blossoming love affair between the two stars. The story becomes stuck as the two flirt and make eyes for too long making everything monotone. This makes “Salmon Fishing” the cinematic equivalent of a “Who’s the Boss” episode where you just want Tony to kiss Angela already.
There are also serious(-ish) plot points involving the unrest in Yemen as locals try to kill the sheikh and destroy the project as it is viewed as an insult to God. These scenes are terribly mishandled as Hallstrom is really more comfortable with presenting witty dialogue than attempted assassinations. These moments are amateurish and take away any gravity from the movie.
As for Blunt and McGregor, they do share some good chemistry. Blunt is fantastic, as always, as she effortlessly fills those big, pretty eyes with tears of longing. McGregor starts the film out with a heavy Irish accent that slowly gives way to a Ewan McGregor accent by the middle of the film which is odd. The two play off each other just fine. In fact, most everything about “Salmon Fishing on in the Yemen” is just fine. But fine doesn’t ever equal good and this one will come and go without much fanfare.