No one saluting German comedy 'Fuehrer'
EmptyCOLOGNE, Germany -- Dani Levy's comedy "Mein Fuehrer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler" is stirring up controversy in Germany ahead of its Thursday release, but not in the way the director or observers expected.
Instead of sparking outrage and uproar, most critics have greeted the "first German comedy about Hitler" with a yawn and a shrug.
"What you can reproach Levy for is not for making a comedy about Hitler," Peter Zander wrote in national daily Die Welt, "but for making such a half-hearted one. ... 'Mein Fuehrer' is -- maybe the worst thing one can say about a comedy -- too harmless."
Christoph Petersen, in his review posted at filmstarts.de, said: "Every single Hitler gag is proudly cemented in intellect, every satirical charge against the Third Reich secured with several safety nets. In the end, cowardice is victorious, and there's a good chance that the majority of the audience will have dozed off in boredom before the final speech."
Oddly, the film's harshest critic is its star, German comic Helge Schneider, who plays Hitler.
In a series of interviews, Schneider has dismissed Levy's movie as "not very funny" and "boring." Schneider said Levy weakened the film by recutting it after a test screening.
According to the actor, Levy downplayed his role and shifted the focus of "Mein Fuehrer" to Jewish acting coach Adolf Gruenbaum, played by Ulrich Muehe, who is pulled from a concentration camp to get Hitler "back in shape" for a final Nazi rally.
Levy, who is Jewish, has defended his cuts, saying the test audience was "appalled" by the original version and mistakenly assumed Hitler, and not Gruenbaum, was the film's protagonist.
While promotion for the film has focused on the "taboo-breaking" aspect of the project, many have questioned whether making a German comedy about Hitler is controversial at all.
While Oliver Hirschbiegel's hyper-realistic portrayal of Hitler in the Oscar-nominated "Downfall" (2004) provoked outrage among many German critics, it also gave rise to a wave of Hitler parodies. Late-night talk show host Harold Schmidt won kudos for his spot-on spoof of Bruno Ganz's performance as the ranting Nazi dictator.
From local stand-up routines to comic books like Walter Moers' best-selling "Adolf, You Nazi Sow!" the German public is used to seeing Hitler mocked and lampooned.
"Making fun of Hitler isn't breaking any taboos," Schneider said in an interview with Die Welt. "Saying what you really think of a movie you were involved in probably is."