Netflix has been hitting it out of the park in 2017 with their original movies and they are right back at it in 2018 with a new film hoping to find similar success.
Synopsis: Local Pennsylvania polka legend Jan Lewan develops a plan to get rich that shocks his fans and lands him in jail. (IMDB)
Starring: Jack Black, Jenny Slate, and Jason Schwartzman
Writers: Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky
Director: Maya Forbes
Running Time: 93mins
Everyone knows that Jack Black has plenty of charm and this charm was definitely on display here. Here he plays a real life Pennsylvania Polka legend named Jan Lewan. He was the epitome of the American dream, working his way from the bottom to achieve his dreams. Joining him along the way were his wife Marla (Slate) and his mother-in-law Barb (Jacki Weaver). Marla was the more supportive of the two, relishing the spotlight along with her husband, and Barb seemed to be the only one immune to Lewan’s charm, criticizing him and Marla at every turn.
Lewan’s sheer determination was infectious to watch as he fell victim to his own success. He was arguably unaware that what he was doing was wrong, however, he simply kept going anyway. He wasn’t necessarily a bad person as he worked several jobs and operated many businesses to stay afloat but it was an investment scam that eventually snowballed and got him in trouble. It was fun to watch as Lewan would use his charm to weasel his way out of precarious situations when the walls began to crash down on him, leading us to wonder how long it would last though it did come to an end.
Lewan’s personality was a little over the top so Lewan’s bandleader Mickey (Schwartzman) helped to balance out all the energy. Despite having their ups and downs, they had great chemistry together. The chemistry was great across the board including Jan and Mickey as well as Jan and Marla. The dynamic between Jan and Marla was believable with Marla being slightly more than just a supporting wife cliche but the film could have gone much further with her character.
The film felt very 90s, matching its setting with interesting costumes, set designs, and the way it was shot during several scenes. The film’s outrageous story probably won’t be for everyone, however it flies by, clocking in at just over 90 minutes, so it’ll be done before you know it.
The best part of the film, without a doubt, was Black’s performance as Lewan. In one of his best performances, Black inhabits the character, including his strong Polish accent, while giving him the same energy that we are used to seeing from him. He carries the film with his charm alone, appearing in almost every scene. Everyone else was good but there was no way that they could compete with Black’s imposing screen presence. Weaver as Barb stood out a little more than the others coming off as one-dimensional, however, she filled her role with a few entertaining scenes.
Overall, this was a decent comedy that may not be for everyone but ultimately succeeds thanks to a quirky story elevated by an excellent and charming performance from Jack Black.
*The Polka King will be released on Netflix on Friday, January 12th, 2018*