Jill and I feel we didn’t cover douche-y men enough last week. God knows those middle-aged white boys need as much attention as possible or else they’ll just fade away – and we can’t have that.
So here we are in True Story land, learning what we can about the real life Polka King and his nefarious ways.
The Polka King (2017)
Local Pennsylvania polka legend Jan Lewan develops a plan to get rich that shocks his fans and lands him in jail.
Starring: Jack Black • Jenny Slate • Jason Schwartzman
Jan Lewan (Jack Black) fronts a popular local Polka band in Pennsylvania. Happily married to former-beauty queen Marla (Jenny Slate), he is something of an entrepreneur who also runs his own gift shop.
Things are looking good for the band, so much so that when Jan decides to add a dancing bear (not a real one) to the act, his clarinetist Mickey (Jason Schwartzman) decides to quit. Jan, ever the charmer, is able to talk Mickey round and promises there are good times on the horizon.
Sadly, he’s not quite as skillful in sweet-talking his mother-in-law Barb (Jacki Weaver), who’s constantly gunning for him and his life choices. (And is the best character in the film).
When Jan is approached by an elderly couple who wish to invest in the band’s future, he takes their money without much persuasion. He then accepts thousands in further deposits, promising mammoth returns to his investors. Alas, the state authorities soon get wind of this scheme and tell him in no uncertain terms that what he’s doing is highly illegal. He’s given three days to pay back the cash and forget the whole crazy idea.
Which of course he does immediately and the film ends there.
Instead he tells the state investigator that he’s quit – and promptly sets up a new scam. Meanwhile, business just keeps getting better and better for the Lewans as Jan starts a travel business giving European tours.
He manages to secure a private audience for his vacationers with the Pope – much to his own surprise – but Mickey begins to see the strings when he realises quite a lot of what Jan says is made up. Jan again keeps him on side by agreeing to let him change his name to “Mickey Pizzazz”.
Jan then gets the idea that getting Marla back on the pageant scene will be great for business – and even though she does a mediocre job, surprisingly she walks away with the trophy.
When it becomes clear that something about her success is amiss, the whole operation comes tumbling down around Jan’s ears. His investors no longer trust him and don’t want to be part of the ensuing scandal surrounding the couple.
Then the truth about his criminal activity gets out and there’s only one place for Jan to go now… and it’s not back to the Vatican.
I found this film really boring. I didn’t care about Jan or even about the people he was conning. Jan has no remorse about what he’s done and even though I think for the most part his victims are just highly naive, his pride in being a part of the American Dream is irritating. We could all be as successful if we were willing to rip off old ladies. Still I guess you could argue it’s his charisma, nerve and talent that got him there in the first place. Hmm.
Jenny Slate is someone who never fails to impress in my eyes but she’s not given much to work with. Only Barb really does it for me as she focuses on proving that Jan is the wrong ‘un she’s always thought he was.
There’s nothing wrong with the performances or the story, it just failed to get me interested. Still, at least it’s not Peppermint (which is 2019’s Blog Collab mantra).
⭐⭐out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐