Review: AMBASSADA Has An Extremely Poor Sense Of Humor
Apparently, after all those magnificent years of creating hilarious, crowd-pleasing comedies Juliusz Machulski (Vabank, Sexmission, Kiler) has finally lost his comedic touch. His oeuvre is like an almost never-ending bag of laugh-inducing creations and a source of great joy, mostly for all fellow compatriots who tried to escape from the harsh reality of People's Republic of Poland by plunging into an expertly designed world filled with timeless gags, wacky slapstick and spot-on dialogue. Though still far from retiring (at least everyone hopes so), Machulski and his creative vision seem to be growing further and further apart since 2004, a year in which he gave the world his last great film, Vinci.
AmbaSSada (EmbaSSy, a title which refers to Nazi Party's elite military unit Schutzstaffel), Machulski's latest journey into the realm of entertainment, starts off on the wrong foot and never really aspires to become something more than a ridiculous, sophomoric, unfunny fantasy comedy with no direction behind its mind-numbing script. What's worse is that the actors look like they wholeheartedly agree with this opinion as they go about trying to act in accordance with heavy-handed material full of preposterous dialogue and clumsily written one-liners. Machulski desperately tries to give the film a much-needed touch of fresh energy, but he inadvertently mistakes the word "hip" with the word "kitsch" when he persistently puts a bunch of redundant English words into Polish sentences. And that's only the beginning of his language-related problems. There's a sense of consistency in the international conversations, but the huge emphasis put on badly distorted German very quickly shifts its intonation from amusing to irritating. Unfortunately, making fun of other language just for the sheer sake of it undeniably comes off as strictly pretentious and superfluous.
The picture is based on a completely nonsensical plot, yet one that might've worked if given more thought. Melania (Magdalena Grazikowska) and Przemek (Bartosz Porczyk, who also plays Anton, a Polish spy and Przemek's grandfather) move into a new apartment in the heart of Warsaw's finest district only to discover that the house's main elevator is also a time machine between the 21st century and year 1939, just days before the outbreak of World War II. To their utter surprise, they realize that just underneath the cozy new place operates a German Embassy.
Doing what every patriotic person would probably do, they try to change the course of history and prevent Germany from attacking Poland. As it soon turns out, their simple and ill advised plan goes smoothly. With the help of another magical object, a wardrobe that allows for matter to transport between two of the building's floors, they immediately capture the unguarded Hitler himself (Robert Wieckiewicz). Instead of killing him, an act that would not only put a halt to Nazi Party's disastrous plan, but also end this irritating farce of a film, the protagonists refer to a more humane way of dealing with the tyrant and torture him with sharp paper and saxophone tunes in what looks like a most shabby on-screen interrogation.
Wieckiewicz tactlessly wants to imitate Charlie Chaplin's memorable performance in The Great Dictator, but pocking fun at Hitler is evidently not his proudest achievement, one that fans will hopefully forgive and forget. Last year's Walesa: A Man of Hope showed that he should definitely stick to more serious acting. Despite her overdone smile and miserable comic timing, Grazikowska succeeds in creating the most likeable of characters. It's not really a big accomplishment considering that she's forced to play opposite Porczyk, who gives one of the most wooden performances ever. He's like Keanu Reeves less talented brother and the source of all the lamest punch lines. Unable to differentiate between two given roles, he's ultimately even worse than Adam Darski aka Nergal, who tries to maintain the same scary and angry appearance while playing death metal and acting as Ribbentrop.
Ambassada has a hopeless ambition of going beyond its skin-deep appearance by reassessing what the audience already knows about World War II in a series of poorly designed images of Warsaw untouched by war. The idea's encouraging sentimental value is destroyed by the tragically ineffective CGI that reconstructs the city with cardboard-like constructions. It's nowhere near as convincing as Warsaw 1935 3D, a 20-minute short that gave a stunning, nostalgic tour of the town's most notable spots.
Despite best intentions, AmbaSSada is neither hilarious nor thought provoking. It's a second-rate caricature of a time travel comedy, in which cheesy situational jokes and witless dialogue mix with a silly patriotic premise unsupported by any interesting arguments. Indisputably, world would be an entirely different place if not for World War II, but AmbaSSada doesn't possess the power to convince that its alternative universe would be a better one.
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