Made in Hungaria -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
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NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

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CANNES -- Not the existential angst we've been seeing from Hungary as of late, Gergely Fonyo's "Made in Hungaria" is a musical about 1960s-era Communism and the beginnings of rock 'n' roll behind the Iron Curtain. At home the film adaptation of a stage musical did well and abroad this cross between "Footloose" and "Grease" is good for festival audiences seeking easy entertainment. For despite a not very original storyline what stands out here are top-notch actors who make the best of the material and seem to genuinely give their all during the musical numbers.

At a time when everyone is fleeing Eastern Europe, the teenage Miki (Tamas Szabo Kimmel) and his parents (Tamas Dunai, Eva Sandor) are forced to leave the U.S. for their native Hungary. Miki comes back with a chip on his shoulder and a trunk full of 45s of Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis, the latter whom he wants to emulate.

His rebellious, "American" ways quickly get him in trouble and the only means to redeem himself with the man keeping an eye out on the newly resettled family, Comrade Bigali (Peter Scherer), is to perform a nationalistic folk song in the school talent show with the man's son.

His old friends, rival rock 'n' rollers, think he's a sell-out, as does his childhood sweetheart Eva (Tunde Kiss). Naturally, he'll prove them all wrong, crooning and gyrating his way to the finale.

The criticism of Communism is pretty thin, and most of the "kids" have clearly been out of high school for a while. But the splashy 1960s-era set pieces and costumes are great eye candy. Hungarian rock 'n' roll is catchy as well.

Kimmel's a natural in his first lead role, hitting all the notes of youthful arrogance and puppy-dog earnestness. It's easy to root for him to get the girl. The rest of the winsome cast manages to anchor the over-the-top mayhem with some honest emotions and energy to spare. Scherer especially walks a fine line with the silliest character, yet evokes pathos for his Bigali who in his misguided obsequiousness only wants to do right by his family and the Party.

Cannes Market

Sales: Hungaricom
Production company: Next Station Production Ltd.
Cast: Tamas Szabo Kimmel, Tunde Kiss, Ivan Fenyo, Titania Valentin, Eva Vandor, Tamas Dunai, Peter Scherer, Lehel Kovacs
Director: Gergely Fonyo
Screenwriter: Istvan Tasnadi
Producer: Adam Nemenyi
Director of photography: Sandor Csukas
Production designers: Viktoria Horvath, Zsolt Nanassy
Music: Miklos Fenyo
Costume designer: Janos Breckl
Editor: Mano Csillag
No rating, 108 minutes