Friday, November 30, 2012

Matthias Schweighöfer's WHAT A MAN proves the comedy-doesn't-travel theory

Variety is fond of telling us that comedy rarely travels well: ours to foreign climes, theirs to us. The best example I've seen of this theory lately is the German movie opening this week, WHAT A MAN. Written and directed by its star, Matthias Schweighöfer (whose personality--on the basis of his work here, at least--could curdle milk), the movie would seem to be arriving in theaters maybe ten to twenty years late so far as its theme -- a fellow doesn't have to be super macho to be a man -- is concerned.

Herr Schweighöfer, shown at right, hangs one cliche upon another in his quest to assure us plenty of comedy and screwed-up romance, as that feel-good finale lines up in our sites. The filmmaker/star does get points for upending the usual race to the airport to catch his true love, and, in fact, the film's finale almost (but not quite) makes up for much of its previous missteps. The writer/director also does some amusing things with the ever-popular panda (below), though much else in this tired fun-fest seems to have been milked dry eons earlier.

The story, such as it is, has to do with a sweet elementary school teacher, played by Schweighöfer, who is clearly out of his element and woefully mismatched with a sexy, up-and-coming actress/TV personality (played by Mavie Hörbiger, below). How these two ever got together is the film's biggest mystery.
Almost from the starting gate we're privy to the fact that his female best friend (Sibell Kekilli, shown below, of When We Leave) would make a much better match, and so any suspense or surprise is pretty much drained from the outset.

But that doesn't stop our hero/filmmaker, who mugs his way through it all rather grossly. Plus, he drags us through what seems like endless and not particularly amusing situations in which he and we join a macho men's group (below),

go partying to meet the ladies (the movie's worst scene by far) and get involved with the very macho upstairs neighbor, played by the very macho Thomas Kretschmann (below, right).

None of this matters much, unless you are relatively new to movies and to rom-coms and so find it all spanking new. But, as I say, the ending has its moments and its charm, and so that may help bring you into the fold, as it were.

What a Man (from Fox International and running 95 minutes) opens today, Friday, November 30, in New York City at the AMC Empire 25, and in Queens at the Cinemart Cinemas in Forest Hills. It is also simultaneously opening in the Los Angeles area at the Phoenix Big Cinemas Dos Lagos 15, in Corona, CA.


Diana Kretzschmar said...

Like you said, comedy doesn't seem to travel very well...
but your condescending critique by no means make this Film a bad one just b/c you don't get it.

James van Maanen said...

Actually, I DO get it, Diana, but I have seen it and gotten it so many times previously, that this movie seemed like simply more of the same. Maybe it's an age thing: By the time you're my age and have seen it over and over again, you may feel similarly.

Anyway, I am glad you enjoyed the movie, and I thank you for taking the time to comment.