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Overall a pretty solid movie
edg012313 January 2018
Basically everything about this movie was about average. The acting is fine, the characters, while sort of bland, are interesting enough. The story is good, the writing is good, and so is the directing.

But there are some things that fall flat. For example, the cinematography, for the most part, was bland. Every shot lookedthe same and felt the same. However, I thought the lighting was well done. Also, some of the perfomances felt a little off. But, I do believe that Jenny Slate and, especially, Jack Black were able to carry the film and make it more fun to watch. Although this movie is listed as a comedy, there really is little comedy to be found. It's not that the movie is necessarily unfunny, it's just that there are no jokes or humorous situations. I did find myself smiling sometimes, not because it was funny, but because there are some fun or satisfying moments in the movie.

For every negative this movie has, there is a positive that slightly evens it out. While it does leave some to be desired, this film is pretty solid and enjoyable. If you are thinking about seeing this movie, I would recommend it. Just don't go in with too high of expectations.
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Well made but disturbing and a film I am loathe to recommend....
MartinHafer16 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
For much of the film, I thought that "The Polka King" was an original story...and I was enjoying it quite a bit. However, my wife did an internet search and informed me that it was a TRUE story and Jan Lewan was a real person AND he was not the least bit sorry for embezzling the nearly $5,000,000. Jan clearly is a sociopath...and giving him a film that makes him seem like a nice guy as well as giving him a forum just seems morally bankrupt and spoiled the film for me. At least in the case of Jack Black and the film "Bernie", the criminal apparently was a decent person who just snapped...whereas Lewan swindled people for years and deserves to die alone, penniless and miserable. Instead, they do a movie about him and he is continuing to tour. He also, I assume, is making money off the film and at the very least is gaining lots of positive attention.

The story is set mostly in the 1990s. Jack Black plays Lewan, a minor celebrity who headed a polka band. However, the job didn't pay very much so he took to selling interest in his band....and instead of investing the money, he spent it on himself, his family and his band....leaving folks with nothing.

At the end of the film, Jack Black and then Lewan himself sing a bizarre polka-rap! This awful song really annoyed me, however, when I learned that a small portion was removed for the film--a portion where Lewan says he was guilty of NOTHING and that he did nothing wrong!! Don't you think it's a bit dishonest to play the song and excise that portion in order to make the leading character seem more like an innocent bungler?! Overall, a very entertaining film that is morally questionable to say the very least as it seems to portray an evil man who bilked elderly folks out of their savings as some sort of nice guy you could love and respect.
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An Absurd And Fascinating Story
KJ Proulx13 January 2018
I've always enjoyed watching films with Jack Black as the leading man, but his career has been pretty hit or miss in terms of good and bad content. Recently with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, he's been having a solid year, but I've been waiting for his classic performances to return. Not since films like High Fidelity, Shallow Hal, or School of Rock have I truly found myself loving him. That being said, I loved how he was committed to his role in the recent rendition of Jumanji and The Polka King only continues his recent devotion to acting. This is a film that completely came under the radar for me, but it's a pretty solid surprise. Now streaming on Netflix everywhere, here's why I think you should check out The Polka King.

Exploring the craziness that ensued when one man wanted to create a so-called "Empire," The Polka King follows Jan Lewan as he does his best to find investors for his company, in order to tour the world, making tons of money. The only issues are that his touring hardly have him breaking even, while his investors continue to invest money, having him owing millions of dollars and spiraling out of control. More than anything, this was simply a fascinating watch, especially when having the knowledge that it's a true story. Polka itself isn't very interesting to me in terms of art mediums, but there was something about this film that hooked me from beginning to end.

From humor to drama, The Polka King has it all. When Lewan is down on his luck, he enjoys finding the best in every situation and that makes for quite a few hilarious scenarios and I found myself audibly laughing on multiple occasions here. Jack Black, as I mentioned already, is a fantastic talent in term of comedy and he doesn't disappoint here. Jenny Slate as Lewan's wife is terrific as well and they share a strange chemistry that I was sort of surprised by. On top of these two great performances, I found myself loving Jason Schwartzman's contribution to this film as well, and I haven't really been blown away by any of his work in the past, so that's saying something from me.

I may be slightly biased when giving my recommendation here because I'm the type of person who loves the meshing of multiple genres. When Comedies and Dramas are mixed together to make films like off-beat movies like 50/50 or Safety Not Guaranteed (just to name a couple), I feel that it's more relatable. Not everything in the world is dour and depressing and not everything is cheerful, so a nice blend of the two is always what draws me in more. The Polka King does a great job at making you laugh, but you also feel terrible for this guy, who steals everyone's money, but his heart's always in the right place.

In the end, this is one of the better films to be released on Netflix in a while and I recommend it to those who're looking for a quick watch. At a breezy 90 minutes, this movie gives you comedy, drama, life lessons, and hope. There's not much more you could ask for from a movie like this. The one downside is that you can sort of predict where the film's going, even if you're unaware of the true story. It's the type of movie that's very solid and worth a watch, but won't ever be up for awards or even remembered for that matter. That's a shame because it's a nice little comedy that I believe deserves some attention.
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Worth watching.
lorirees20 January 2018
I always have good intentions of going to the movies on Friday night. Inevitably fatigue from the workweek gets the best of me and I end of staying in. Polka King was my stay-at-home Friday night movie choice and I enjoyed it. Some reviews pan this movie as boring and terrible. This is a decent, entertaining movie. I knew about this story because years ago I saw the documentary, The Man Who Would Be Polka King.

I have always like Jack Black, especially his performances in Bernie and Margot at the Wedding. Maybe Black didn't exactly pin down the Polish accent perfectly but I believe the essence of Jan Lewan came across. Maybe Jack Black isn't the perfect choice to play for this particular part, but he can sing and has good comedic timing. Jason Schwarman, Jenny Slate, and Jacki Weaver were also entertaining and believable when you compare the documentary (The Man Who Would Be Polka King) to this film. I especially appreciated Jacki Weaver's comedic and frustrated performance. There were plenty of funny parts -- I got a kick every time Black's character said Bitsy Bear.

Definitely give this movie a chance if you are in the mood for a decent, entertaining movie. If you have time on your hands, it's fun to watch the documentary after.
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"Get in there, we got some polka to do!"
classicsoncall13 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I first became aware of this film back in the summer of 2017 after my own polka dance instructors stated that they were called by Jan Lewan to appear in a movie about his life being filmed in Rhode Island. Their names are Rich Labanowski and Hilda Ellis, and though they took part in a dance scene, I wasn't able to catch them in the picture; they may not have made the cut. Rich was a Harvest Moon pairs champion in the polka category in 1960 and appeared with his partner on the Ed Sullivan Show.

I think for the most part, this was a fairly credible representation of the career of Jan Lewandowski (Lewan for short), covering his heyday in the field of polka, followed by his involvement in a major financial scandal that ruined many people. With Jack Black in the lead role, one naturally expects a comedy treatment, and though there are some humorous moments in the picture, it's more a serious story about a man who allowed his passion for music and investing get the better of his personal judgment. The one thing that comes through more than anything else is Lewan's indefatigable optimism and faith in God to point him in the right direction when he realized he was getting in way over his head.

In the middle of all this, Lewan's wife Marla (Jenny Slate) enters and wins the Mrs. Pennsylvania Beauty Contest under questionable circumstances, adding another layer of ambiguity to Lewan's character. It seems as if all the good things Lewan touched were ultimately brought down by his unwitting faith in a higher power to get him out of any kind of jam. Some no doubt will view Lewan as the ultimate con man, and he was that to be sure, but I don't think you'll ever experience a con man with a more positive attitude about life and where it could take him if only the breaks went his way.

The 'real' Jan Lewan makes an appearance over the closing credits, and one could very well question why someone like Jack Black was selected to portray the title character. There's not much of a physical resemblance, Lewan in fact appears quite professional in front of an orchestra. The close of the picture brings the story of Jan Lewan more or less up to date in real time. You still have time as I write this to book a 'Final Tour to Poland' at, as well as shop at his on line gift store. Needless to say, and in spite of Jan Lewan's resolve to go straight, you might want to be careful about booking that dream vacation.

My only real gripe with the picture, if you want to call it one, is the choice of title. Followers of polka in the United States know there's only one 'Polka King', and that title goes to eighteen time Grammy winner in that category - Jimmy Sturr from my home town of Florida, New York. I haven't seen Mr. Sturr yet to ask him what he thinks about the movie, that's something I can get back to you on at a later time.
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Good cast, decent movie.
JangoFettsHead14 January 2018
I watched this movie because I knew Jack Black & Jenny Slate were both starring in the film (who I both very much enjoy), and it ended up being nice cast in all. However, that is where this movie excels, the cast. The story was, to say the least, not very interesting, and the only reason I kept watching was the reason I started watching in the first place. I also think the humor misses. I did not find myself laughing as much as I usually do whenever I am watching Black. I think the cast did the best with what they were given, and like I mentioned before, they were the best thing about the movie.

Watch this movie if you really want to, but if you do not, you will not be missing out on much.
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Black steals bizarre biopic
Andrew Pelechaty21 January 2018
While 'The Polka King' just seems like a vehicle for Jack Black to show off his singing talents, this Netflix exclusive is based on the true story of Polish polka singer Jan Lewan (Black) who traps his wealthy fans/investors in an elaborate Ponzi scheme.

Black - relatively restrained by his usual standards - plays Lewan as a hard-working, big-dreaming and God-fearing entertainer who wants to please his wife Marla ('Parks and Recreation's' Jenny Slate) and critical mother-in-law (Jackie Weaver), his expanding band (including best friend and clarinet player Mickey, played by Jason Schwartzman) and his adoring fans. He needs money to do so, and that's where the trouble starts...

Black nails the cheesy, silly polka songs with the Polish accent. Like his other biopic 'Bernie', TPK shows what a talented singer Black is outside of his comedy acoustic rock bank Tenacious D.

If you love Black as a singer, it's worth watching.
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The Polka Meh
punisherversion16 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The Polka King: Directed by Maya Forbes and written by Maya Forbes and Wallace Woldarsky

The Polka King is a bizarre true story about Jan Lewan in trying to impress and make this big media empire from a polka band and to finance it, he devises a ponzi scheme. This has flavors from Bernie especially with Jack Black's performance and it has flavors from The Wizard of Lies and The Wolf of Wall Street. It even has a hint of Pain and Gain in it. The story being based on true life events but the truth being wild and crazy.

This has comedic elements in it. The main thing being it is so bizarre and absurd that this really happened and this guy was a real person. This is all fine and dandy but we have to find a way to dig into more of who this person is. We do that a little bit. The entire concept of the American dream being having the most money and taking care of everyone might have been what lead him down this path he takes. He feels like he needs to do everything big and wild to impress everyone. He is dreaming big and shooting for the moon. He doesn't feel like he is committing a crime until much later when he can no longer hold the illusion together.

This is another middle of the road movie. It's not too long. It doesn't drag but it doesn't bring much new to the this particular table. It's also not very funny other than being outlandish. It needed just a bit more that this movie wasn't able to give me as an audience member.

I give this movie a C.
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I didn't enjoy it
Gordon-115 February 2018
This film tells the story of a Polish Polka music singer, who makes a fortune by setting up a Ponzi scheme that targets the elderly.

I thought it would be a comedy, but only after a few minutes in I already found out it was not funny at all. The story is not so engaging because the background stories of the investors are not explained, and hence I feel little for them. The characters in the film are not very likable either. Unfortunately, I did not like this film as I imagined I would.
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Wolf of Wall Street Polka Edition
Russ_Thompson20 January 2018
Surprisingly funny and warm-hearted tale about a guy who basically steals 5 million dollars from pensioners and fakes a whole life for himself with it.
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Black Brings A Bizarre Reluctant Criminal To Celluloid Life...If You Like Black This Works.
AudioFileZ13 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Just because you have a soft spot for Jack Black you may bite on this one. Just because Black finds the supposed real character he's playing here doesn't necessarily translate to a Jack Black fan. Now, I think these axioms are definitely in the mix here but, if you really, I mean really, like Jack Black he can bring you in. Bring you in to a fairly pedestrian story with a decidedly lesser character in his past performances. Black can make a movie when he creates a character. It's never been for everyone, although several of his creations have really transpired many tastes and demos. This is more of insider Black flick. It's filmed with colors and cinematography as tacky as the role he's bringing. It's part of the charm if you're in otherwise it looks like a movie of the week. Since it is what the aim is it fits.

Now here's the thing. Jan Lewan is a lovable character. He is the American Dream in a portly lovable character. He somehow believes the end justifies the means to an extent that perches him on a precipice where he's on the edge. He's really not much different than a Wall Street hustler except he actually seems to believe he'll end up not just on top but a hero to all those who believe, and invest, in him. This creates a tension that the comedy just can't trump mostly because you want it all to work out for everyone, especially Jan. As things keep going the underlying tension is hard to deny. Whatever Jan has done you just can't hate the man. As silly as it is the house of cards comes down to a Mrs. Pennsylvania contest. Jan fixes the pageant and his whole empire crumbles. The scandal of the pageant is the end. It sucks the core of the man out of the man. Now Jan wants to pay for his past and when he's arrested he's actually glad. This is because he can't keep up the lie.Going to prison isn't the vindication pure and simple he's looking for. It's complicated. He's attacked and even in that Jan see's some justice. Jan hits a low when still incarcerated his wife divorces him. Even in ultimate defeat Jan perserveres and lives to make a comeback. Fact truly is stranger than fiction. In spite of his corruption and all the man rises...And, so far hasn't been attacked, or murdered, by fleeced investors. I'd say Black does an odd-ball story the odd-ball justice which, as much as is possible, explains it. Not for everyone for sure, but another character Black breathes celluloid life to in a way few can.
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Not even a good TV movie
courtjes13 January 2018
Knowing the real people, the real town, this movie falls flat on its face. It gives a ridiculous portrait of Lewan as naive and kind and generous instead of the calculating criminal he became in fleecing old people of their life savings. The mother in law is way too over the top in your face. The wife is virtually a non entity. It is a boring, awfully acted, awfully produced picture that used a Rhode Island location instead of the more realistic Pennsylvania. Thankfully its not in the actual movies where one would have to buy a ticket.
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Did not meet expectations
guyzradio13 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I remember Jack Black's previous projects Nacho Libre and School of Rock as enjoyable. Based on his appearance on Stephen Colbert the night before the film's release, I assumed The Polka King would be similar. Unfortunately, the film failed for me on multiple levels.

Most aspects of the film fell "flat," a term used liberally in other reviews. Black's forced and unnatural Polish accent constantly got in its own way. Whether an attempt to accurately portray a real person, or a caricature, it wore out quickly.

Further confusing matters is it's a story about a polka band, but there wasn't much polka music. But wait...that's because it's REALLY a comedy about a Ponzi scheme, in which the band plays a minor contribution to the plot. But's not that funny, either.

Overall, the film left me wondering what it was attempting to do. Formulaic plot, over-the-top or under-developed characters, a question of accurate portrayal of Jan Lewan, etc. Catch it on streaming if you must. Be prepared for a letdown.
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A Grammy-nominated con artist gets the Black treatment
bettycjung30 January 2018
1/29/18. Jack Black seems to have a knack for playing real life creeps, like Bernie Tiede in Bernie, the undertaker who embezzled $3 million from a wealthy widow after killing her. In this movie, Black plays the con artist, Jan Lewan, a Polka entertainer who pulled a Bernie Madoff on his many unsuspecting fans. Lewan sucked millions from people who were entranced by his ebullient personality. Black did a great job with this role.
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janetswainston13 January 2018
Firstly, this movie has some great credentials. Experienced writers who know what they are doing. But these same writers also directed and that's where this thing falls flat.

Jack Black, while not a favourite of mine, is usually so on point with his comedy that it even makes me laugh. Jenny Slate is bland as Marla and Jason Schwartzman is so beige in his performance that he might as well be invisible.

The lines were delivered without much emotion or finesse, which is strange and unexpected from these talented folks. The lip synching to the songs was so off, you could tell it was Black's voice but his lips were slightly ahead or behind on the songs.

This was flat. Flat as a pancake.

If I could give it no stars, I would. Avoid this movie and tell Netflix to get better material.

Oh, and John Candy and Eugene Levy did this schtick years ago on SCTV and it was hysterical and funny. They will always be the Polka Kings to me. This movie was an insult to their comedy.
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markj-0255619 January 2018
The Polka king is about a polka musician called Jan Lewan who runs a Ponzi scheme on the U.s government and the events that unfold before, during and after the events of the scheme. This film is also based on a true story.

Written and Directed by Maya Forbes (Infinitely Polar Bear). starring Jack Black (school of rock) as Jan Lewan, Jenny Slate (Zootopia) as Maria Lewan and Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) as Mickey Pizzazz.

First of all Jack Black is excellent in this film, you truly care about him even though he is doing awful things. Which makes him a great anti-hero and is about the only thing that is good about the film. In fact he probably saves the film from being downright awful. 3 out of the 4 stars I gave this film is probably because his performance is so good. The other would be for some nicely composed shots in this film.

But Jenny Slate and even the usually on point Jason Schwartzman or so bland and unlikable that it drags the film down with it. All the supporting actors are awful in this film. But worst of all the film probably only made me laugh once throughout the whole runtime, which for a film with Jack Black and Jason Schwartzman in is absolutely tragic.

If you wanna watch a good Jack Black comedy, watch School of Rock. That's all I have to say.

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Nothing funny in this Polka King
Daniel14 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This is that kind of movie that you are already know what will gonna happen with the protagonist because is based in a real story. I expected to see more interesting and funny thing about this Polka King guy. This guy ruined the life of a lot people, and the movie that seems not to be a big deal. I know that was not to suppose to be a depression drama movie, but there is no so many thing funny about Jan Lewan ( the Polka King). It would be better if they had included some fake stories in order to the Polka King seem to be funnier than he really is. When I saw the thriller, I didn't expected a great movie, I thought would be that a silly comedy movie that make you laugh a little bit with some funny scenes. But I don't remember any funny scene in this movie.
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Made me smile...
Warning: Spoilers
... And sometimes that's enough. This movie is no "Citizen Kane," but it's fun, has good performances and makes good use of minor characters, and then there's the toe-tapping music, rendered by the very talented Jack Black. So, when you've had a hard day and don't want to concentrate on a great film, this one should be enjoyable (especially the "sex" scene between Jacki Weaver and Jason Schwartzman, shades of "Atlantic City"). And, not least of all, you can remember this is based on a true story and enjoy the schadenfreud.
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Jack Black Can Do Polka
christopher-cole8327 January 2018
The Movie "The Polka King" is based on the life of Jan Lewan, a Polish immigrant who came to the United States, settled in Northeastern Pennsylvania and continued his polka career, and eventually running a Ponzi Scheme. I'm not entirely sure how many of the facts of the man's life were embellished for the story, or if it can truly be considered a bio-pic. It is, none the less, entertaining due to Jack Black portraying Jan.

Because "School of Rock" showcased Black actually having some musical talent, I was surprised to see that he played, quite competently at that, the leader and singer of a polka band, a vastly different style than what he showcased in School of Rock. I don't know how much of a stretch it was for him, as a musician or an actor to pull it off, but in watching this he came across as a legitimate polka band leader, not as someone trying to portray one. He clearly brought some energy to the role, and seemingly getting the approval of Jan Lewan himself.

If you're a fan of Jack Black, or a fan of polka, or both, it's worth your time. It's not great cinema by any means, but I think it showcases that Black is versatile, and that's not a bad thing.
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The movie sounds a lot better than it is.
Hellmant24 January 2018
'THE POLKA KING': Two and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

A comedy based on the true story of Jan Lewan, a Polish-American polka band leader who was imprisoned for running a Ponzi scheme in 2004. The film stars Jack Black as Lewan, and it costars Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman and Jacki Weaver. It was directed by Maya Forbes (who also helmed 2014's 'INFINITELY POLAR BEAR'), and it was written by Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky. The script is based on the 2009 documentary 'THE MAN WHO WOULD BE POLKA KING' (which was directed by Joshua Brown and John Mikulak). Jan Lewan, and his original band members, also recorded the soundtrack for the film, and Lewan coached Black with his vocals. The film was released by Netflix through it's streaming site, and I thought it was an OK movie.

Jan Lewan (Black) was a polish citizen, living in America with his wife (Slate) and son (Robert Capron). He was the band leader for a popular polka band, that his son and best friend (Schwartzman) were also in. His mother-in-law (Weaver) was always against Jan following his musical dreams, and continuously telling him he needed to get a real job. Jan found funding for this obsessive hobby, and all of his unrealistic dreams, by scamming his fans out of business investments. This of course later got him into a lot of trouble.

The movie sounds a lot better than it is (to me at least). Jack Black starring in a Netflix comedy film, as a Polka band leader, and it costars Jenny Slate and Jason Schwartzman. That sounds really good to me actually, and it's just not nearly as good as it sounds. It's really dry, and not very funny really. The performances are decent though, and it's an interesting true story. I could have done fine without seeing it though.
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Why Does Hollywood Love To Portray Bad People In A Positive Light?
mandfunk20 January 2018
Hollywood has an obsession...a desire to turn all thing good into something bad, and all things bad into something good. I mean really, this movie portrays a swindler in a positive light...clearly trying to get the audience to sympathize with Lewan's plight, as if he was the victim. Lewan ruined the lives of many people who lost everything...many of these people were old and had no means of recovering from the loss! Jack Black seems to love these roles...he painted the murderer of an old women in the same positive light in the movie Bernie.

Hollywood loves to make murderers, thieves and thugs into great people...while lying about other groups and making them all out as evil incarnate, like they do with Christians, southerners, or the white male. Sad.
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Not great, but not the atrocity depicted in some of these reviews.
steviegjd15 January 2018
This is not a great movie. It is caught in a time warp. I love Jack Black. But, when he is out of control, the movie can go off the rails and that happened here. This movie has a similar vibe to Bernie and Nacho Libre, both of which were better movies. This would have been a better film if his character was played straight, as opposed to the goofy character in The Polka King. The real Jan Levan stole real money from real people. He wasn't a sweet misguided immigrant. The story deserved a better vehicle for its telling. I do, however, find it ironic that a number of the super critical reviews here are by people who cannot spell, don't know how to use proper punctuation and have bad grammar. Draw your own conclusions.
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Great cast but movie was bland...
mouaten14 April 2018
If you got the time then sure watch this...but if not id recommend finding something else to watch.
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It's really an 8 but 2 extra stars .......
StevesSeenThat7 April 2018
2 extra stars since so few other movies out there right now seem to think they need a plot, characters you care about, and try to keep it under an hour and a half. This movie has all of that.

It's warm, sweet, it moves right along, it stays engaging, and there's polka music!

BTW if you enjoyed this movie you will also like Bernie which also stars Jack Black, is also a biopic, and also has a plot with characters you care about.
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