The Yacoubian Building isn't this year's The Best of Youth, but with one or two positive reviews from American critics wowed by the Egyptian film's scope and polish, it could very easily be marketed as such. This near-three-hour soap opera has a lot going for it: It's apparently the most expensive Arabic-language film ever made; it's based on a best-selling novel of the same name which is considered the most widely read work of popular fiction in the contemporary Arab world; it stars Egypt's counterparts to Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise. More importantly, it does the noble service of serving up a plentiful slice of contemporary Egyptian culture, replete with Big Issues such as homosexuality, colonialism, class conflict, secular Islam, terrorism, and female exploitation. But it's still a soap opera -- which means that even the meatiest issues tackled within are brushed over with a swoony romantic sheen, which threatens to downgrade the endeavor from ethnographic document to lifestyle porn with a heavily moralistic edge.