Thursday, February 9, 2017

[Review] Toni Erdmann

Writer/directer Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann is a German comedy oddity of sorts that could've been a great romp if only its laughs and heart weren't so diluted amidst the strenuous runtime. In other words, the film is a big gag that plods instead of runs.

Meet Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek), a lonely piano teacher and genuine prankster who wants to get back in touch with his estranged workaholic daughter Ines (Sandra Huller). When things don't go so well, Winfried takes on an alter ego--the titular Toni Erdmann--a playful and goofy character who dons crooked teeth and a head of hair that looks like a dead poodle. As Ines navigates the business world, Toni pulls some shenanigans in an effort to make to her crack a smile.

This sounds pretty swell on paper, but unfortunately you have to deal with a lot of yawns along the way. The unnecessarily tedious first half often delves into boredom. There are scenes that begin too early and drag on for far too long, and there are some full sequences that frankly just aren't very interesting--stuffy business meetings, humdrum office parties, chatty cab rides... The funny stuff comes when Toni, for better or worse, embarrasses Ines in front of her uptight co-workers and engages in some escapades that come off like bizarre, jokey performance art. The sweetest moment showcases an impromptu father-daughter karaoke duet of Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All". And the film's hilarious, notoriously awkward and slyly liberating highlight of a setpiece involves Ines baring it all during a company team-building activity (I'll let you guess what that means).

But much like Toni's raggedy hair, I wanted to take a scissors to the film's 162-minute length and thoroughly chop off all the messy and extra long chunks. In a new development, Paramount Pictures have taken notice of the potential crossover appeal of Toni Erdmann and announced a remake starring Jack Nicholson (emerging from his Lakers seats) and Kristen Wiig. My guess is that that one won't be three hours long. And while I'm usually opposed to these on-the-heels Hollywood adaptations for audiences who don't like subtitles or bothering to search out foreign films (See The Secret in Their Eyes, The Delivery Man etc...), this is a rare case where I might be able to embrace it.

( 6/10 )

Be sure to Like Fade to Zach on Facebook!
And Follow me on Twitter: @Fade_to_Zach

No comments:

Post a Comment