'Puppet Fiction' ('Geld Her Oder Autsch'n!'): Helsinki Review

Courtesy of Helsinki International Film Festival
A laughless pairing of underworld sleaze and puppets

"Avenue Q" it ain't

A German entry into the naughty-puppet microgenre, Rene Marik's Puppet Fiction wears a Tarantino-ish title (in English, anyway) promising something far more novel than it means to deliver. The sight of foul-mouthed, misbehaving hand puppets isn't enough to energize a laughless comedy whose plot might have been lifted straight from a Muppets feature (and then dropped into the gutter). Import potential is next to nil, though a few curious genre fans might click its button on VOD.

Where Avenue Q made Sesame Street's idiom its own in service of a grown-up, and very funny, story, this one simply adds drugs and crime-flick cliches to the kind of formulaic backstage drama plot that was never really the point in the good Muppets features, simply serving as a delivery vehicle for winking gags and cameos.

Here we meet two troupes of performers: One, led by the Kermit-ish Falconcrest, is a sensation, selling out performances nightly despite the constant threat that costar Kalle, a furry polar bear, will collapse under the weight of his coke-snorting, skirt-chasing lifestyle. The other group, a Punch and Judy-style kids' show run by Kaspar, has a hard time keeping even two or three tykes in the audience. As it makes no money, Kaspar's theater is to be demolished by the usual greedy developer — unless one of the castmembers can convince his old drama-school pal Kalle to loan them some cash. Kalle may be in no position to do so, as his manager has embezzled the show's receipts to pay off gangsters.

This run-of-the-mill plot needs some kind of novelty to make it watchable, and creative puppetry would seem the obvious candidate. But there's no artistry here: Those working the Muppet-style characters haven't learned how to make them expressive; as for the wood-headed Punch-styled ones, if you're going to put a camera on a motionless carved head while an unseen actor delivers lines, the performance should be a lot more animated than these.

Production company: Dreamer Joint Venture Filmproduction
Cast: Rene Marik, Christoph Maria Herbst, Dorka Gryllus, Rike Schubert, Ulli Voland
Director: Rene Marik
Screenwriters: Thomas Brussig, Rene Marik
Producers: Rene Marik, Johan Robin, Oliver Stoltz
Executive producers: Antonio Exacoustos, Holger Hanig, Jorg Hohne, martin Horhammer, Josef Reidinger, Dieter Semmelmann
Director of photography: Bernhard Jasper
Production designer: Lorinc Boros
Editor: Wanda Kiss
Music: Ali N. Askin

No rating, 93 minutes

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