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Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (2011)
Fair, balanced, neutral and if the subject doesn't appear in a "positive light", don't blame the director but thank the subject
Sure, didn't we all have a good laugh at Sarah Palins expense? Admit it: like me you were waiting gleefully for a new interview during the 2008 elections, waiting for Mrs. Palin to blur out another avalanche of nonsense, hog-wash and absurd gibberish while standing in the limelight. Somehow half-convinced that we were watching an episode of Candid Camera or that somebody had elected the village-idiot to run as vice-president of the United States. At the same time trying to ignore the fact, as one commentator put it, "that (had McCain won), this woman would be a 72-year old man's heartbeat away from being president" somebody who couldn't find major hotspots like Iraq on a map, but was convinced that she could see Russia from her porch.
I've always been a fan of Broomfield's Gung-Ho-style journalism. Or rather let's say, I've always enjoyed his style without necessarily coming to the same conclusions (no, I don't think that Kurt Cobain was murdered by his wife, as Broomfield has suggested in his "Kurt & Courtney").
The "appeal" (if I may use the word in this context) of Sarah Palin is that she is one of the members of this profession that allows a good insight into her mind. Politicians have long since learned numerous tactics and skills regarding body-language, gesture and syntax to be able to "shield" them off from prying minds. At times this can backfire (to mind comes Bill Clinton, who gave his Spiel away when pointing and nodding in the wrong direction while proclaiming "I did not have sex with this woman!"). Another fine example would be his wife Hilary: comparing her body-language when she was "just" First Lady to nowadays, where she has obviously gone through rigorous training, is like comparing night and day. Save to say, Sarah Palin possesses no such skill.
Broomfield doesn't have to dig through the dirt much. Mainly, he only needs to sit back and let Sarah's (former) friends, allies and acquaintances do the talking. The dirt would appear virtually out of nowhere, as if just waiting to hit Broomfield's camera. We get what we would expect and probably knew from the very beginning: it's a picture of a complete incompetent, bungling yet ruthless and ambitious politician, who entered the presidential race with the same hope of somebody purchasing a lottery ticket at the petrol-station. In short: it would have been child's play to mock or ridicule the documentary's subject, but being the gentleman that he is Broomfield opted not to go down that path, so his film never seems like a hatchet job (in contrast, let's recall Michael Moore tearing into a certain actor, of whom he knew that he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and hence was easy prey; the contrast couldn't be starker). "Don't demean yourself and ridicule fools they'll do that all by themselves", like the saying goes. Interesting, entertaining and distinctly neutral (at least from Broomfield's side, who opted to heed that saying mentioned above). 7/10
Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)
I wish it wouldn't be so, but in all honesty: I was overall disappointed
Right, some consider "The Killing Joke", right after "Dark Knight Returns", the most essential Batman (solo) graphic-novel. When I read it as a wee lad, it was a real eye-opener about the figure Batman, which in a way made the character so much more realist. Realistic in a sense: yes, it's not just an unblemished superhero in a bat-costume, but Batman is essentially a lunatic whose lunacy is kept in check by a moral compass (the same way I believe the James Bond is essentially a psychopath with a license to kill, but that's another story). It put it into essence that the Batman and the Joker are really just two sides of the same coin, one on the moral spectrum, one on the chaotic side, which would later be confirmed by Nolan's "The Dark Knight".
To keep it short: I rooted for the movie adaptation and I rooted for Conway and Hamill to reprise their respective roles. But when I was done watching it, I found myself not having liked it. Unfortunately and for various reasons and here are the reasons why: Let's start with the positive: graphics and effects were very nice, so was the soundtrack and the voice-actors are once again beyond the shadow of a doubt. The problem I had was the adaptation factor.
We get about half an hour of a Batgirl history-story that could have been condensed to 10 minutes or less, if it had stuck to the source material. That's about half the film, mind you. A story about the partnership between Batman and Batgirl, implied intimacy, a stalker-Mafiosi, that is dropped right after a doctor confirming that Batgirl (after having been shot by the Joker) will never walk again, add nothing to the general storyline and is abandoned completely. So, here we have half the movie a whole 30 minutes that felt wasted and it now continues to be a real "The Killing Joke" adaptation. Why the overlong and pretty pointless Batgirl storyline? We can only speculate, but after having watched the film, I had a look at the Wikipedia page and found an "interesting" addition about the "feminist interpretation" of "The Killing Joke" (as one can imagine, as toxic and useless as an "interpretation of feminists of Moby Dick" but, considering the feminist-raids on virtually all Wikipedia pages in the "current year", not all to surprising) The scenes (in the comics), where the Joker tortures Commissioner Gordon, was pretty gritty at the time of the release, but here it is presented no more shocking than your average PG-13 cartoon. Including the Joker's song-and-dance-routine, this was embarrassing to watch and made the viewer feel sorry for Hamill. And of course we have the iconic ending, which kept the nerds speculating and discussing it until this day. Has Batman finally snapped at the end? Or did he indeed "snap" The Joker? The way it is shot here is so unspectacular, that it ranges on a sentiment of "why would I care?" Which makes it even more disappointing that director Sam Liu has been involved with many of the better DC-Animated-films but doesn't come anywhere close to the what Jay Oliva has achieved with sitting in the director's chair. What remains is a series of bad decisions in almost all aspects, a pedestrian take on a story with potential and a mediocre 5/10
The Road to Wellville (1994)
Flawed, but by no means as bad as some would have you believe
It probably happens to everybody: one comes across a review on IMDb, looking for some info on a movie that one considers a personal favorite, and what does one find? A rating that points more toward the lower end of that rating spectrum and numerous devastating reviews, that point both thumbs (and probably the big toes as well) downwards. Of course everybody is entitled to their own opinion and taste, but in the case of "The Road to Wellville" I cannot help but to break a lance for a film that deserves a little better than what it has gotten thus far.
The actors shine throughout. Matthew Broderick has never played a more likable character since his "Ferris Bueller's Day Out", Tracy Lind and Bridget Fonda sparkle with feminine beauty and although one can tell that Anthony Hopkins was not altogether comfortable with his role, comedy being clearly not his first line of work, he makes the best of what he's given to work with. Same goes for all the supporting cast, who are throughout quirky and likable (including Colm Meany, who has never played a slimier character), and often look, as if they had stepped out of a "Asterix"-comic-book.
Before the disastrous "The Master of Disguise" technically ended his career (and, yes, later associating himself later with Adam Sandler wasn't a good idea either; not for Carvey or anybody else on this planet), you basically couldn't go wrong with Dana Carvey. A virtual chameleon of his trade, Carvey's various roles and guises only had one thing in common: they were always funny as hell and usually stole the scene. Such is the case in this movie. Carvey's George Kellogg is an epitome of grime, sloth and human rot (though not without the vulnerable child at the core), which keeps the viewers emotions of utter revulsion and amusement at a 50/50 level.
Special praise must go to Jacob Reynolds, playing the young George Kellogg. I say it as I see it: he's uglier than a blind horse. But not in a repulsive way, but rather so ugly, that one could stare at his strange features and over-shaped head for hours without getting tired or repulsed. Though his retrospective scenes are rather short, he steals every one of them.
So, why the low rating and plenty negative reviews, I wondered. Well, for one I can understand that some people might not feel comfortable with the scatological humor (of which there is galore). Without having done any research on it, I could imagine that this kind of film would have been more popular in Europe than it might have been in the United States. Often I found myself reminded of French comedies a la Claude Zidi and, since we're speaking of potty-humour, of course Monty Phyton. The main criticism I would place on the director himself. No doubt, Parker is a master of his trade but you can always tell that he was uncomfortable to let his comedy (a field which Parker isn't exactly at home, perhaps with the exception of "Bugsy Malone") deteriorate into slapstick or farce which the movie is essentially, and there is nothing wrong with that. Parker seems to have aimed more in the direction of biting satire, throwing in moments of seriousness (as in the story of Fonda's dead baby or the troubled history of Kellogg with his adopted son), which seem unnecessary, out of place, almost forced.
And now, more than 20 years down the "Road to Wellville", the movie has aged exceptionally well and is just as enjoyable as it was when I first saw it. The story and message is still as contemporary as it was, perhaps even more so. Think self-appointed health-gurus, militant vegans and fitness crusaders, who'll argue that you'll die healthier if only you forsake all earthly pleasures. In fact, not too long ago, I found myself involved in a random conversation with a vegan. I listened silently, as he told me about his excellent health and of course that I, as a "meat-eater", was clearly on the doorstep to death. While he prattled on, I measured his skeleton-like appearance, the hollow eyes and a skin-tone that had already a slight hue of greenish (no doubt due to a lack of Vitamin B12). By the time he had seemingly finished his sermon, I nodded in agreement I mean, what else can you do? then moved on. And while I contemplated which steak-house I was going to visit now, I found myself subconsciously whistling the movie's title-melody. And don't try to tell me, if you're a friend of the culinary world and well-being, that you don't have a distinct desire for a hearty piece of meat after watching "The Road to Wellville".
Technically a 7/10, though it ranks among one of my personal Top-50 comedies.
Les 12 travaux d'Astérix (1976)
The most psychedelic yet to many the ultimate screen-Asterix
Once again, in the year 50 BC, the Romans are having the holy hell beat out of them by a small village of defiant Gauls, who have inhuman powers, thanks to a magic potion. Rather common, as we all know. Hence the rumor spreads among the fearful Romans, that those Gauls could potentially be gods (unlike in the comics, the Romans here aren't aware of the magic potion). Bad news for Emperor Julius Caesar, who offers chieftain Vitalstatistix a deal: the chief's most capable men (obviously Asterix and Obelix) must complete twelve tasks. If they fail, the village must give up their defiance. If they win however, Caesar will accept their divinity and relinquish his crown or rather his laurel wreath. Hence, our heroes must run faster than Greek marathon-runner Asbestos, beat Verses (the Persian) at javelin, beat Cilindric (the German) at a fistfight, cross a lake that is the home of sirens, survive the hypnotic gaze of Iris (the Egyptian), eat an enormous meal at Calorofix' (the Belgian) tavern, make it alive through the "cave of the beast", retrieve Permit A38 in "The Place that sends you mad", cross a ravine filled with hungry crocodiles via an invisible tightrope, answer the question of an old man on the mountain, spend a night on the haunted "plain of the dead" and finally survive a fight in the Colosseum in Rome.
Let me start off by saying, in Germany the "Asterix"-comics always had something of a family-tradition. Many a dad bring brought home the newest "Asterix" to their kids and for many kids including myself that was pretty much like somebody else's Dad taking his kid to a baseball-game. Actually, there were usually two copies purchased: One to be read and kept in mint-condition, the other one to take to the local grilled chicken shop and read will eating, pretending the grilled bird was grilled boar. (Don't laugh: In Germany it was not uncommon to see people sitting in the "Hendl-Shop", a German version of KFC, chowing away while reading "Asterix" and it wasn't even considered bad manners).
Having dropped that nostalgic tit-bit, I'm not the first to point out that "The Twelve Tasks of Asterix" is considered by many fans the best of all the many cartoon-adaptation. For one, it's not an adaptation, but rather a story completely unrelated to the series. The first two movies, "Asterix the Gaul" and "Asterix and Cleopatra" kept close to the comic, but missed the satire and cultural references that made the comics appealing not only to kids but to adults as well. What came later was clearly produced entirely for kids.
"The Twelve Tasks of Asterix" on the other hand could be enjoyed by both young and old, in fact, seemed to have been geared more at an adult-audience. The scene with the nymphs was rather raunchy for "Asterix"-standards, the task in the Madhouse (a pun on modern bureaucracy) probably wouldn't even make sense to younger kids, while the task with the ghost-legion was rather spooky. The animation remains the most pedestrian of all Asterix-films, but it's the seemingly careless painted backgrounds that give the film its charm and (thanks to the xerographic process) almost psychedelic feel, that at times remind of Ralph Bakshi cartoons like "Heavy Traffic", "Wizards" or many other 'artsy' 70's cartoons.
Producers often don't seem to understand that cartoons and comics are two different medias, which have only one thing in common: they're both painted. That doesn't make them compatible or easily translatable, however. Most of the 'twelve tasks' (perhaps with the exception of Obelix versus the Belgian cook; in German called Mannekinfix) wouldn't work well on paper, nor would they fit into the Asterix (comic)-formula. This is probably the reason why "The Twelve Tasks of Asterix" work, while most other Asterix-cartoons fail at capturing the magic of the comics, or at best appear like a pale adaptation.
The third Asterix cartoon (there would be five more, including numerous live-action films and a computer-animated cartoon) would remain the last for almost ten years. After that, the cartoons took on another formula, which usually spliced the stories from various comics together and, as said, were mainly targeting a minor audience. Whether that was because "The Twelve Tasks" was a box-office bomb or not, I cannot tell but like many other hardcore Asterix-fans I felt sorry that future films would take the direction they did, and that "Twelve Tasks" would remain a unique experience. And this uniqueness made it the ultimate Asterix-cartoon and possibly the dearest to the hearts of most lifelong fans.
Wilder Westen, inclusive (1988)
National Lampoon's "Family Vacation", without the anarchy and slapstick
Bruno Kuessling (Peter Striebeck) is your "average Joe": working a boring job as a meteorologist in Hamburg, divorced, and father of Carolin (Katja Studt), a teen going through the tribulations of puberty. Like many Germans, Bruno has a passion for the US. Not the contemporary US but rather the times of Billy the Kid, Geronimo and Al Capone; in short, a passion for the times when the US still used to be the land of unlimited opportunities. Fearing that he would become ever more estranged from his budding daughter, Bruno decides to beat two flies with one swat and arranges a roundtrip through the states for him, Carolin, a former buddy and his girlfriend. However, fate intervenes (Bruno's buddy falls sick with a bad case of mumps) and hence Bruno finds himself travelling in the company of three women, his ex-wife having decided to join the trio. Chaos seems pre-programmed, including the "mandatory" delayed flights and the stress of intercontinental traveling, until Bruno and his entourage finally arrive in Los Angeles. There they join a busload of other, stereotypical, bourgeois German tourists and start their tour across the country, with (again) mandatory stops in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, final destination being New York.
"Wilder Westen Inklusive" is designed as a three part TV-mini-series, weighing in at roughly five hours, but essentially is one long movie. Over-long, to say the least. It's about 40 percent road trip, 30 percent comedy, and 30 percent family-friendly movie, including all those elements of love, coming-of-age, being strangers in a strange land, topped off with a hearty spoonful of schmaltz and relationship drama.
Imagine a reverse variation of "National Lampoon's European Vacation", without the slapstick and of course without Chevy Chase. Indeed, main-actor Striebeck can be considered one of the weak links of the production. Sure, the viewer is able to sympathize and even take pity on this "average Joe", who seems to hop from one mishap to the next misfortune, constantly having to juggle between trying to keep the trip from becoming a total disaster, while dealing with his daughter (who of course falls in love and has her first menstrual bleeding), as well as having to manage falling in love with his friend's girlfriend Ingeborg (Gundrun Gabriel) and re-awakening feelings for his ex-wife Marianne (Krystyna Janda). But, as said, a Chevy Chase he is not. Some much-awaited and desired laughter would have pushed the film up a notch, but this falls through after the first half, where everything seems to turn more serious, away from comedy and heading straight into love-triangle and soap-opera territory.
Director Dieter Wedel, a veteran of German TV, is able to keep it together and manages the story from becoming too tedious, but one notices that he must have had a rough time with keeping the momentum up for the full five hours. There are multiple flashbacks, giving us details about the former relationship between Bruno and Marianne that are both unnecessary, unwanted and, yes, even tedious, virtually reeking of filler-material. The supporting cast is both capable and reliable, chosen mainly from veterans of German TV and cinema, but like mentioned as stereotypical as they come. Same goes for the portrayal of the Americans: people in the big cities like California and New York are either over-friendly or shallow, Las Vegas is full of crooks and degenerates and the countryside-folk seem generally oblivious of the outside world. And if the Germans learn one thing about US-Americans: their staple source of food is hamburgers and their income comes primarily from tourist-traps. It is a very simple world that Wedel presents us with.
Essentially it's clean, family-friendly fun. But one has to admit that the movie hasn't aged very well, being almost 30 years old and will move likely be enjoyed mainly by nostalgic fans, who have a heart for the 1980's TV-drama or those, who have seen it during its original run. Having done so myself, I give it a 7/10 which, to people who haven't seen it before, will probably be reduced to an average 5/5.
Der Geisterbräu (1963)
Not the ultimate version of the play, but still a classic in it's own rights
After a life of wine, women and song (and while playing a deck of cards), Xavier Bogenrieder, owner of the renowned beer-house "Unterbräu", has finally keeled over. His wake is less than harmonious: for one, one of his mistresses makes an unwanted appearance (and unwarranted financial demands), for the other, his long-suffering widow Wally (Ruth Kappels) is immediately swarmed by would-be future-husbands, among them the local teacher, pharmacist and postal worker. Much to the chagrin of the establishment's manager Sebastian (Karl Peter Holzmüller), who has been loyally keeping the place running but has for the longest time fallen in love with Wally. The local Shepherd Sixtus (Maxl Graf) comes to Sebastian's aid, suggesting that a potential "haunting" might drive Wally into Sebastian's arms, offering himself to play the part of the deceased's "ghost". But Sixtus haunting backfires. Soon the "Unterbräu"-pub has not only gained the reputation of a haunted house, but also loses its regulars and soon the naïve widow has the local bailiff sitting on her shoulder.
Indeed, "Der Geisterbräu" (German for "Ghost Pub") is a classic among South-German / Bavarian "Bauerntheater" ("rural plays"), often shown on TV in the past 50 years, more often played by local theatres. Like most of these stories, the storyline is rather simple and yes call it a spoiler if you're not familiar with the genre there will be a happy end for all involved. What differentiates this play from most other "Komödienstadl"-plays that would follow, is the setting itself. As always recorded in front of a live-audience, the seats of the onlookers are elevated, which allows the cameras to record at close range, giving the impression that this was a made-for-TV-movie.
The sets are quiet beautiful, designed with a lot of love for details, giving the feeling of the rural countryside at the turn of the last century (not that much would have changed since then anyway). Other than a majority of similar plays, that often will have a single stage, the story takes place in three different settings (the tavern itself; the loft, where Sixtus prepares his little "hauntings" and neighborhood butchery). All three places are as authentic as possible on live-stage, indeed, watching this and perhaps being familiar with south German beerhalls and taverns, you can almost smell the place. It is hence not surprising that "Der Geisterbräu" counts among the more popular theatre-plays of that time (or rather this version, considering that many other stage companies, both professional and laymen, still feature this play to this very day the most popular being a version with cult-actor Toni Berger playing the grave-digger, which was aired in color a few years later). A little gem for fans of light, harmless urban theatre-plays, well worth a 7/10
Lucky Luke (1984)
Not perfect, not all that a fan could have wished for but good entertainment
Mind you, dear reader, I'm writing this from a German perspective and the German-version of those 26 episodes produced by Gaumont & Hanna-Barbera Productions. Versions in your own country may hence vary.
Next to "Asterix" (and without bothering to check it up), I would presume that "Lucky Luke" was the second-most famous comics in Europe during the 1970's and 80's. If you'd collect one, you'd invariably come in contact with the other, so most people collected both series anyway. So, obviously a cartoon-series was produced and obviously the kids flocked to the television whenever it aired. Hence, fond memories for those who grew up around that time, but we have to admit that the show was not without flaws.
A good part of that is to be blamed on the Hanna-Barbera studios, which were notorious for cutting corners and to a point even understandable keep any costs as low as possible. It shows in the overall animation, which is a far-cry from the loving details of the comic-books. To mind come the classic "Tom & Jerry" cartoons and what they ended up looking like after HB-Productions got their hands on the franchise. There's a distinct difference in quality between the intro (I presume this was done by the French Gaumont), which looked like straight from the comic-book and the actual show itself. To be fair: the quality of the animation still beats many contemporary, shoddily CGI-assembled cartoons, but as a comic fan one would have expected a little more effort.
As to the stories themselves: they were of course adapted straight from the comics, which made it difficult since the episodes are only roughly 20 minutes long. Difficult to cram in the often complex, detail-loving stories of the comics into such short a space. Most episodes were so condensed or even taken completely out of context, that you often only the title and the title-figures reminded of the original stories. And of course the show was targeted primarily at kids and teens, while the comics enjoyed an audience of both young and old. That gave the show a childish air, filled with juvenile jokes rather than the wit of the comic, that didn't sit well with many fans. Catchphrases keep repeating themselves over and over, pointing toward lazy script writing, Jolly Jumper is way chattier and the dog, Rantaplan who in the comic only appears sporadically, usually involving story lines with The Daltons has a much permanent role as a (more often than not) annoying sidekick in the cartoons.
Like "Asterix", "Lucky Luke" was not mere slapstick or kid's entertainment, but also had a certain educational value (Goscinny was painstakingly about details, making the stories and places as authentic as possible), but don't expect to find any of that in the cartoons. Some oversensitive readers have criticized that many of the characters in the comic were way to "stereotypical". Hence, you had the lazy Mexican, the sneaky and reclusive Asians, the simple-minded and gullible Indians, etc., but same could be said about any other character in the comics. Most important though, none of these depictions were anywhere near spiteful, but rather lovingly 'over-stretched'. Don't expect any of that in the squeaky-clean cartoon either. Same goes for Luke's iconic cigarette, which makes no appearance, no doubt upon the insistence of the American production company. Of course, a few years later, when the anti-smoking-hysteria hit Europe as well, the cigarette in the comics was replaced by a straw as well, leaving many fans to lament that Lucky Luke simply wasn't the same anymore. Some hardcore fans have gone as far as to draw in their own pictures of cigarettes into the comic. Some merely defacing the drawings, others turning it into a real art, creating "alternative versions" that would make them worth a handsome price among collectors (but of course most hardcore fans would never sell their comics).
Overall, this analysis may give the impression that the cartoon-show was rather bleak. Not so. It does have redeeming values and, as said, a strong nostalgic factor for people who grew up with it. But it simply didn't get anywhere close to the original cult-comics. In fact, more than "Asterix", "Lucky Luke" seemed to have a much harder time translating to any other media, including a number of rather mediocre real-life-action films. Special praise must be given to the title-song and the ending credits "Poor, lonesome cowboy", which (if I'm correct) are identical in most countries, but with varying, local singers. In the German version, both songs are performed by Country & Schlager singer Freddie Quinn, and most viewers from my generation will probably still be able to whistle and sing along, even 30-odd years later.
Plenty of potential, but wasted and squandered never the less
Being a fan of "Asterix", "Lucky Luke" and not least "Iznogoud" (here in Germany spelled "Isnogud"), its quiet surprising that I came around so late to watch this film. Or perhaps not such a big surprise at all, considering that I've been more or less disappointed by most real-life-adaptations of said comics. Hence, I didn't watch with too high an expectation and left not quite as disappointed as I had expected but disappointed nevertheless.
I'd agree with most points of criticism that the other reviewers here have pointed out, but would defend Jacques Villeret, who looks like he was born to play the part of the peaceful, tranquil yet rather simple Caliph (and that may sound a little off-place, considering that this was his final role). Michael Youn as titular character, well, not as bad as made out to be, but then again not exactly living up to the comic-Iznogoud either. Too young, in my opinion, and far removed from the figure, that's slimy, scheming, choleric, treacherous and of course likable as an anti-hero can get. I don't blame it too much on the cast though and rather on the lazy script-writing (it would appear that Patrick Braoude has only glanced over the source-material and/or didn't understand it) and Braoude being the wrong man for the job of directing this in the first place.
Not being all too familiar with his prior work, it would appear that Braoude is more at home at children's movies and RomComs, which shines through in "Iznogoud" but really has no place in an adaptation. Call me naïve, but when adapting from a different media, especially one that is so popular and beloved as the "Iznogoud"-comics, I would presume that you primarily want to reach the fans of the source-material. Here we get the impression that the producers reasoned, "oh well, the fans will go and watch it one way or the other, just on account of the title. Let's make it hip and flashy, and see how the kiddies will buy it". Whether the kiddies bought it or not, I cannot tell but I sure know that the fans came, saw and were generally not too amused.
Evidence for this chumming up (no better way to describe it) are the often raunchy one-liners, which may have come from a certain orifice of Braoude, but certainly not the comic. They replaced the often witty, double-meaning dialogues of the source, and are nowhere to be found here. Another piece of evidence (just to point out one), is the "Pretty Woman" dance-sequence, which reeks of pandering to youngsters and is plainly embarrassing for all involved. A rule of thumb: keep song-and-dance-routines out of material where they don't belong and instead keep them, where they belong: in musicals. NOT "Iznogoud"-adaptations! Speaking about pandering: though the film didn't even make it into German cinema (strange but telling, considering how popular the comics are), they did release it on DVD, and of course synchronized it with local voice-overs. From all the competent speakers and comedians, they opted for people like Rick Kavanian and Rüdiger Hoffmann. I doubt that many people from the generation of "Iznogoud"-fans will have gained as much as a smirk from their form of comedy usually referred to as "grimacing" and "vulgar slapstick". Sure, kids enjoy that for reasons of their own, but hearing their voices over the character, probably drove home the final nail of the coffin.
I'd give it 4/10 for good costumes, nice design, the settings and the attempt of the actors to make the best of what they were given to work with; but I certainly won't give it a second view.
Want to sum up every stereotype about youtubing millennials in on sentence? "Kartoffelsalat"
Oh boy, how the hell did I end up in this heap of garbage? Well, I can tell you. Three reasons, even: for one there's a lifelong penchant for trash-movies and cinematic disasters, and the undying hope to either find a hidden gem or at least some form of unwanted humour. Found neither. Then there is Otto Waalkes, which, like many from my generation, I virtually grew up with and whose sheer endless spiral downward is just one of those car-crashes that you cannot pass by without gawking. And then there was an almost anthropological interest in this 21st century phenomenon called YouTube.
Considering that the German film-industry is virtually dead, television following on its heels and heading toward "Unterschichten-TV" (German for "low class"- or "scum"-TV) and most of the mainstream media not even worth switching on anymore, I admit that internet channels and platforms like YouTube are a little spark in the dark. At least one can choose one's own program of interest and where professional journalists and critics fail these days, one is free to look up alternatives. But of course that has it's underbelly as well. I'm talking about self-styled YouTubers like those in the movie, who generate clicks and subscribers (in essence: money and revenue) without producing content that goes beyond pointless rants and cringe-worthy brattling, patreon-begging, aimed entirely at millennial-teens with too much internet at their hands. Those who might download some Justin Bieber videos (because they find him cute), subscribe to channels (because the Vlogger is cute) and watch cartoons with rainbow-colored ponies (for the same reason). All which is all right with me, since nobody is forcing anybody to press and suggested video and it's easy to block content that one deems non-desired. But making a movie (with a budget, no less!) with those kids, that's a whole new spectrum.
At first glance, the premise of the "story" might remind you of "Shawn of the Dead" had "Shawn of the Dead" been produced by millennials with the IQ of an ounce of salt. A nerdy teen turns his schoolmates into zombies, so he can educate them in various academic skills, which in turn turns them back into humans (upon which the lead character and director) is celebrated as a hero. And that's it! If you now wonder what the translated title of "Potato-salad" has to do with the crapfest, well, the director and script-writer openly admitted that he simply couldn't think of a better title. This might give you an ilk of what level of teen-moronity we're dealing with here.
Are there any redeemable factors here? At least a single joke that is above the level of the shadow of a snake? I tell you honestly: no. And if you're watching this for nostalgic reasons AKA seeing Otto Waalkes in a movie, well, you couldn't feel more depressed if you'd see the former comedy-star sitting on a street-corner, with an empty bottle of plonk wine, even emptier eyes and stretching out his hand to passer-by's. Don't even get me started about "special guests" like Jenny Elvers, who made a name and career out of appearing drunk in talk shows. The rest, as said, are just random kids who talk about fashion, videogames and VIP-news that they've picked up somewhere in the internet, usually from the vicinity of their bedrooms or, if there is some substantial YouTube sponsoring to pay for it, behind a green screen in their parent's basement.
The scariest part: not only did this trash manage to generate a million bucks for production (sponsored mostly by Otto's own production company), but managed to make a profit at the box-office, no doubt generated by the same airheads who frequent those YouTube channels (or rather their parents hard-earned money). And although I don't want to turn this into a rant about incompetent millennials (right, as if I haven't already) and will state that there are exceptions to the rule, the general rule is still damn pathetic, making one wonder if the internet was worth it in retrospect. Those words are often over-used and used far too lightly, but I'll utter them anyway, because I cannot fathom how one can possibly make things worse: this is the absolute bottom of the barrel. I cannot state it enough: 0/10 is my rating the one star above, that's courtesy of IMDb and I wash my hands with innocence.
Otto - Der Neue Film (1987)
It may have been his "new film", but there's nothing new about Otto
Well, with the biggest local box-office hit ever under his belt, you'd guess that German cult-comedian would try to top (or at least repeat) that success as soon as possible. You'd guess right. Two years after the glory-tour of "Otto The Film", Otto Waalkes released the follow-up "Otto The New Film". And he didn't budge one iota from the original formula. This makes the sequel both enjoyable and at the same time set a downward-spiral into motion that has lasted to this day.
Once again countryside-bumpkin Otto is in the big city (this time not Hamburg but Berlin), once again things aren't in his favor and once again he wishes that he was home in his Frisian island-hamlet. And once again he is in debt, this time owning his landlord (Dirk Dautzenberg) a proto-fascist, who seems to come straight from the 1940's a considerable amount of rent-money. Unless this is paid off, there is no going home for Otto. His only friend is the landlord's daughter (Anja Jaenicke), an ugly duckling who has taken a shine to our hero, naturally without him noticing it. First he is forced into a form of slave-labor by his landlord, having to do a number of bone-breaking chores, until fortune seems to smile upon him for once. A neighbor, a renowned animal psychologist, asks him to housesit for his cat, which is a rare breed, albeit highly suicidal. In the meantime, the blonde model Gabi (Ute Sander) moves into Otto's former apartment and our hapless hero falls head over heels in love, despite Gabi being an example of arrogance and pretentiousness, constantly working on a plan to meet Arnold-Schwarzenegger-like action-movie-hero muscles to the neck and bone to everything else that lies above Amboss. So Otto forges a masterplan, poses as the influential animal psychologist and attempts to wow Gabi's cold heart thus.
As said, the formula is identical to the first movie. A thin story, connected by fast talking Otto and his routines of stand-up-skids, musical interludes and spoofs of various media-phenomena's (in this case, the Schwarzenegger-hype of the 80's, bands like Modern Talking and spoof of various franchises, including two Levy jeans commercials, which garnered the criticism of product-placement). Sure, fans of the Otto-material will find a few laughs but considering that many of the jokes in the first part weren't particularly 'fresh', they often seem way more aged here. Also, what's missing are the competent co-stars and cameos of part one. Not that all actors are particular bad, but none of them are particular funny either. And by "particular bad" we might well have a look at Ute Sanders, who not only plays the part as obnoxious as possible, but seemed to have played the part autobiographical: this film and a one-time appearance in Playboy magazine remained her only time in the limelight, yet she kept haunting the German boulevard press with various sorrow- and sob-stories for years, until moving to Texas, where she works as a volunteer nurse. Not too long ago she released her "celebrity autobiography", which cannot possibly surpass the volume of a haiku.
As said: a couple of okay, even though dated and harmless jokes, that's pretty much all that speaks for the second Otto-film. In the end, it's really pretty much what "Police Academy II" was to the original film: not nearly as good, funny or gritty, but in the light of things to come, still far superior to the garbage that Otto would produce in future years. A mediocre 5/10 is all I can offer.