Perhaps the first of its kind, Where Do We Go Now? is a musical dramedy … from Lebanon.

By and large, Middle Eastern films that arrive on American shores are weighty, issue-driven affairs, highlighting the religious and sectarian strife that plagues the region. Writer-director Nadine Labaki’s sophomore effort certainly falls in line with its forerunners thematically, but its predominantly light approach proves a refreshing change of pace to its regional counterparts.

In a rural village – clearly meant to be Lebanese, though it’s never identified that way outright – the half-Christian/half-Muslim populace coexists in relative harmony with one another. Watching TV together on a hilltop is a not altogether uncommon communal activity, as is fraternizing in the local cafés. Religious differences are never fully out of sight, out of mind, however. Petty disagreements lead to some Christian youth shepherding in goats to desecrate the local mosque, and the Islamic response nearly results in a full-scale brawl in the town square. In addition, ongoing fighting a few miles outside the village serves as a constant reminder to the townspeople of the potential for greater, more severe conflict internally.

That blood is never spilt is a credit to the village’s fairer sex, who are somehow universally united – to a woman – in their desire to prevent the pot from boiling over. The comedic means at which they keep their husbands and sons at bay from each other range from the covert drugging of men with hashish pastries at a town meeting to Christian women confounding their husbands by engaging in Islamic prayer and vice versa. As in her debut film “Caramel,” Labaki’s heroes are her female protagonists, which includes herself in the lead role.

The film is unquestionably successful in generating laughs out of what are normally tense and highly sensitive issues. Admittedly, by oversimplifying a highly complex and deeply-rooted situation by turning all the men into buffoons and all the women into smooth, clever operatives, Labaki is taking some liberties here. Where Do We Go Now? could hardly be described as incisive or penetrating. On the contrary, it’s decidedly superficial with respect to its characters and their religious differences. And what’s wrong with that? The interaction of the ensemble cast of colorful characters calls to mind such British village comedies as Waking Ned Devine and The Englishman Who Went up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain.

Still, the film isn’t without its somber side. At one point, a teenager is killed when he’s caught in the crossfire of a battle outside town, and the discovery of his body is heartwrenching for the boy’s mother. Yet a few minutes later, an entertaining, Bollywood-like musical number – one of several in the film – breaks out, replete with belly dancers. Every time Labaki tries to inject some deeper dramatic weight into the proceedings, she actually ends up getting undermined by her own success in the comedic arena.

That being said, her basic point – that the Lebanese townsfolk’s similarities outweigh their differences – comes through. How refreshing, then, that she was able to make it through laughter and levity and not with another overwrought and weary drama.