Veteran director Lasse Hallstrom surprises and delights with this offbeat, inspirational comedy.

Efficient, effervescent Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) is the British investment representative of a visionary Yemeni oil sheik who is determined to bring his favorite sport of salmon fishing to his native Middle Eastern country. To that end, she enlists the help of a buttoned-up Ministry of Fisheries bureaucrat, Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), who initially ridicules the far-fetched idea of stocking a hatchery and creating salmon run in which 10,000 fish can swim upstream to spawn. But when the UK Prime Minister's cheeky, cynical press secretary, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), views the preposterous project as a politically opportune way to improve strained British/Arab relations, he's railroaded into service.

Still skeptical, uptight Dr. Jones agrees to meet with the progressive, idealistic Sheik (Egyptian actor Amr Waled), joining him for fly-fishing and meditation at his palatial Scottish estate, particularly since Dr. Jones' marriage to an ambitious businesswoman, Mary (Rachael Stirling), has gone sour. As for Ms. Chetwode-Talbot, she's conveniently single since her soldier boyfriend Robert (Tom Mison) has been shipped off to serve in Afghanistan. And the Sheik serves as a sly matchmaker. Once they get to the Middle East, a myriad of other obstacles must be overcome, including an armed band of traditionalist, Islamic extremists who fear Western influence.

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Based on a satirical novel by Paul Torday, intelligently scripted by Oscar-winning Simon Beaufoy ("Slumdog Millionaire"), perceptively cast and artfully directed by Lasse Hallstrom ("My Life As a Dog" "The Cider House Rules," "Chocolat"), it revolves around the theme of faith - in its many permutations - and offers a very different view of the contemporary Middle East, one that is characterized by tolerance and respect, with fly-fishing as a metaphor for patience, peace, and a spiritual harmony with nature. And for purists, outdoor filming took place in Scotland and Morocco, not Yemen.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" angles in with an eccentric, engaging 8. Catch this whimsical treat.