Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: My Best Enemy

Strained attempt at World War II tragi-comedy isn’t funny.

Jan 9, 2013

-By Deborah Young


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1370088-My_Best_Enemy_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Austrian director Wolfgang Murnberger attempts to inject an underbelly of humor, or at least a touch of irony, in a silly tale of switched identities between a Nazi and a Jew during World War II. My Best Enemy barely squeaks by with its life. All comparison to Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds or Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful are as far-fetched as citing Ernst Lubitsch and Charlie Chaplin as predecessors to this trivial enterprise, which takes the artistic risks of an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes.” Trying to be amusing and respectfully serious at the same time, the film remains in limbo, saddled with an overworked story, characters and setting.

Genre clichés are reinforced by flat acting, and even the usually excellent Moritz Bleibtreu and Georg Friedrich are marched into stereotypes. So little does the film resemble the dry sense of humor in Murnberger’s top-grossing crime movies (Come Sweet Death, The Bone Man) that many fans will be thrown for a loop. Yet there actually are a few laughs here, and the perky, swift-moving pace was good for German box office, if not the rest of world.

Carefree, debonair Victor (Bleibtreu) is the wealthy son of Viennese art dealers, the Kaufmanns (the patrician Marthe Keller and Udo Samel.) It’s 1938, just before Germany takes over Austria, and he’s overjoyed when his childhood chum Rudi Smekal (Friedrich), the son of the family housekeeper, returns from Germany. Little does he know that Rudi has become an S.S. officer and will soon betray the Jewish Kaufmanns.

Most people would not trust the mousy, squint-eyed Rudi with the cookie jar, but Victor foolishly shows him a secret room where his father is hiding a rare drawing by Michelangelo, no less. Next day, the Nazis are pounding on the door to confiscate it as a present for Hitler. While the shocked Kaufmanns are escorted to a concentration camp, Rudi and his gloating cohorts make off with the drawing, or rather a forged copy of the original.

Discovering their mistake, the Nazis order Rudi to take Victor to Berlin for interrogation. But their plane is shot down by Polish partisans and, while Rudi is unconscious, Victor switches his filthy concentration camp rags for the other’s spiffy S.S. officer uniform. When the Germans show up, it’s Rudi who gets knocked around and insulted for being a wretched Jew. And that’s supposed to be the funny part.

The line between realism and humor is just too fine to work here. As situation comedy, Victor finding himself forced to play a Nazi, while nasty Rudi wails his innocence, is both strained and awkward. Intent on showing Victor as a hero, not a passive victim, Bleibtreu flaunts the misplaced aplomb of Cary Grant even when he steps out of the camp, conveniently wearing the same haircut as when he went in (with a shaved head, he’d be instantly recognizable, of course.) Friedrich is never likeable, though he’s supposed to be. Ursula Strauss, playing the girl both men love, fades in and out of the story.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: My Best Enemy

Strained attempt at World War II tragi-comedy isn’t funny.

Jan 9, 2013

-By Deborah Young


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1370088-My_Best_Enemy_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Austrian director Wolfgang Murnberger attempts to inject an underbelly of humor, or at least a touch of irony, in a silly tale of switched identities between a Nazi and a Jew during World War II. My Best Enemy barely squeaks by with its life. All comparison to Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds or Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful are as far-fetched as citing Ernst Lubitsch and Charlie Chaplin as predecessors to this trivial enterprise, which takes the artistic risks of an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes.” Trying to be amusing and respectfully serious at the same time, the film remains in limbo, saddled with an overworked story, characters and setting.

Genre clichés are reinforced by flat acting, and even the usually excellent Moritz Bleibtreu and Georg Friedrich are marched into stereotypes. So little does the film resemble the dry sense of humor in Murnberger’s top-grossing crime movies (Come Sweet Death, The Bone Man) that many fans will be thrown for a loop. Yet there actually are a few laughs here, and the perky, swift-moving pace was good for German box office, if not the rest of world.

Carefree, debonair Victor (Bleibtreu) is the wealthy son of Viennese art dealers, the Kaufmanns (the patrician Marthe Keller and Udo Samel.) It’s 1938, just before Germany takes over Austria, and he’s overjoyed when his childhood chum Rudi Smekal (Friedrich), the son of the family housekeeper, returns from Germany. Little does he know that Rudi has become an S.S. officer and will soon betray the Jewish Kaufmanns.

Most people would not trust the mousy, squint-eyed Rudi with the cookie jar, but Victor foolishly shows him a secret room where his father is hiding a rare drawing by Michelangelo, no less. Next day, the Nazis are pounding on the door to confiscate it as a present for Hitler. While the shocked Kaufmanns are escorted to a concentration camp, Rudi and his gloating cohorts make off with the drawing, or rather a forged copy of the original.

Discovering their mistake, the Nazis order Rudi to take Victor to Berlin for interrogation. But their plane is shot down by Polish partisans and, while Rudi is unconscious, Victor switches his filthy concentration camp rags for the other’s spiffy S.S. officer uniform. When the Germans show up, it’s Rudi who gets knocked around and insulted for being a wretched Jew. And that’s supposed to be the funny part.

The line between realism and humor is just too fine to work here. As situation comedy, Victor finding himself forced to play a Nazi, while nasty Rudi wails his innocence, is both strained and awkward. Intent on showing Victor as a hero, not a passive victim, Bleibtreu flaunts the misplaced aplomb of Cary Grant even when he steps out of the camp, conveniently wearing the same haircut as when he went in (with a shaved head, he’d be instantly recognizable, of course.) Friedrich is never likeable, though he’s supposed to be. Ursula Strauss, playing the girl both men love, fades in and out of the story.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Amira & Sam
Film Review: Amira & Sam

A potentially intriguing interracial love story between an ex-soldier and Middle Eastern lass feels much too forced and contrived. More »

The Devils Violinist
Film Review: The Devil's Violinist

The latest classical-music legend to have his life trashed–again—by a cheaply sensationalistic movie, this famed fiddler deserved way better. More »

Backstreet Boys
Film Review: Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of

The ’90s boy band dusts itself off for a self-congratulatory, and not especially revelatory, career retrospective on the occasion of their 20th anniversary tour. More »

Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts 2015
Film Review: The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Documentary

The long shadow and in-your-face reality of mortality shadows nearly all the entries in this year’s powerful, draining Oscar-nominated documentary short films program. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Project Almanac
Film Review: Project Almanac

Saying this underbaked Chronicle knockoff is meant for teenagers is an insult to the intelligence of teenagers everywhere. More »

The Wedding Ringer
Film Review: The Wedding Ringer

Intermittently amusing bro-comedy trifle that confirms Kevin Hart's talent, though not his taste in material. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here