"Willkommen bei den Hartmanns" is a German movie from 2016 that is actually pretty long, runs for almost two hours. The writer and director is Simon Verhoeven and as much as I enjoyed his take on "Männerherzen" as disappointed am I by his effort here in terms of the script. This is a film about refugees, a topic that has been present and controversial in German media for months now so it was about time I guess that this complicated subject also got represented in German film. Here it does and at the same time it doesn't, but what I mean with this I will explain later on. Lets take a look at the cast first. Senta Berger (Verhoeven's mother) plays a major character, an actress who has been in German films for a long long time. Sadly, she was very irrelevant in this film. This was especially disappointing as she was the one introducing the refugee to the family. Her alcoholism story appeared as quickly as it disappeared and was apparently just a desperate attempt to give her character some reason of existence. Alcoholics should be offended. Her husband is played by Heiner Lauterbach. That's right. Have you ever thought to see Heiner Lauterbach be married in a film to the more-than-a-decade-older Senta Berger, with his background (Jenny Elvers etc.) Lets be honest here. His private life is very similar to the one the script criticizes here about his character. Also all the age references about Lauterbach's character cannot make this relationship seem credible. Berger was just miscast (and maybe the connection to the filmmaker) explains why. On a positive note, Lauterbach gives possibly the best performance of the film and has a couple pretty good moments, also in terms of comedy, that I did not really expect from him. Thumbs up for him here for sure. The daughter is played by Palina Rojinski and her character falls in love with Elyas M'Barek's. This is a very fitting relationship in the negative sense. I see both actors as people who may have decent recognition value, physical attractiveness and charisma and I sure would not push Rojinski out of my bed, but I also see both as extremely forgettable when it comes to their range. M'Barek has lots of screen-time, but not a single scene where he could shine as an actor and it's obvious why. Rojinski has 2 or 3 scenes, but she shines in none of them either. Her character's brother is played by the Florian David Fitz and while he does not have immense range either I think he has decent talent when it comes to acting and also shows it to us occasionally, even if he is sometimes in danger of going too much over the top. Eric Kabongo who plays the refugee is bearable, but nothing special. Uwe Ochsenknecht does not have too many scenes, but has nice chemistry with Lauterbach as they share the screen in most of his scenes and makes his character work somehow.
Now lets talk about the script and the film in general. I personally think that the first half of the film was actually pretty decent. There were scenes that were actually pretty funny, like these about Lauterbach's character Botox injections for example. The introduction of the characters was decent and you never had the impression that this film took itself or the subject too seriously. All this changed after the one-hour-mark. With protesting Nazis, drug-abusing hipsters, police interventions and finally even coverage about the Hartmanns on national television it all took a turn for the worse and Verhoeven's attempts at making this a really relevant and defining film on the subject of refugees backfired completely. I also really did not like the agenda he was outing upon us. It is perfectly fine if he is apparently 100% pro refugees, but I would have hoped for more diversity. Showing us a refugee who is apparently a terrorist-in-hiding as we find out at the very end or including quotes from the Koran that justify killing everybody with a different belief and then letting the characters explain that it's not about the words but about the people simply isn't good enough. Also the film depicted those who criticize the German government's approach to the subject as Nazis, lonely old neighbors and obsessed stalkers and this was extremely unsatisfying. The approach Verhoeven gave it is not a tolerable solution in my opinion. The right approach lies somewhere between the extremes of letting everybody in and letting nobody in. Bit like I described earlier, this is not the only problem with this movie. The second half just destroyed a lot that worked well in the first hour. A lot of the drama, basically almost all of it, rings very false, such as the heart attack that they have build up again and again throughout the film or the police attack on the Hartmanns' home and they hear right at the very same time that it's not justified when they break through the door. It's spectacle over substance and this is my main criticism with this film. They tried to make it appealing to the broad masses who enjoyed crap like "Fack Ju Goehte" before and the film's quality suffers a lot from it. This movie was best when it went for 100% comedy and did not take itself seriously at all. The moment it becomes very serious about the subject of refugees, it all goes south. Also the happy ending for everybody from the family is pretty cringeworthy and has basically nothing to do with reality. With how it eventually turned out, I cannot agree with the previous reviewers and I also cannot recommend watching this movie here. Germany definitely still has a big problem when it comes to filmmaking that includes the genres comedy and drama in one film. Thumbs-down from me for these 115 minutes. Watch something else instead.
13 out of 21 found this helpful