I cannot help but think that this film could have been much better in more capable hands. As others have noted, it runs way too long. Roger Ebert rather astutely observed that somewhere in this 143 minute movie could be a decent 90 minute movie; perhaps he is correct, though we might never know. Gore Verbinski should re-edit this movie for a director's cut and leave out about forty-five minutes; perhaps that would help resolve at least some of its shortcomings. The acting is nothing special, which is to be expected given the way the film plays like a combination of a slapstick comedy and a children's movie. Johnny Depp is a very good, serious actor, as evidenced in "Blow," "Ed Wood," "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "Finding Neverland," etc., though I didn't really like his performance in this film. He does much as much can be expected to develop his character, though I cannot help but wonder if he (along with the rest of the cast) considered this from the onset as simply a paycheck because it appears many of the actors didn't take it seriously and merely phoned in their performances. It doesn't help that they didn't have much with which to work, either. I'm not certain why the principle leads would sign on for two more entries to this series, though money would again be the prime suspect. Action-adventure movies can be fun and entertaining without being shallow and resorting to clichéd tactics as this movie does; the recent Harry Potter and Spider-man movies are good examples of movies that successfully combine entertainment and action with competent, intelligent scripting. Furthermore, it seems to me the makers of this movie could not decide what the target audience for this movie would be, and the result is that it appears to be intended for children, yet is entirely too long to retain their attention and contains entirely too much violence and too many gruesome effects for children. This seems to be a problematic trademark for Verbinski, whose "Mousehunt" (1997) seemed to be clearly intended for children, yet contained some decidedly adult humor. I cannot really recommend a movie that has me wishing it would end halfway through it, which this one did. That is not to say it is bad or that it is dull because it is undoubtedly ambitious and there are moments throughout the film, until the last frames, which show undeniable sparks of energy. Some of the scenes work well and the action is more than adequate. Also, we don't see very many pirate movies any more, so it does have that going for it, you know, which is nice. Ultimately, however, the film meanders about, loses focus and is simply not good enough to warrant a viewing. With two more movies on the way, perhaps there was enough material among this trilogy that would have warranted making 1.5 or even 2 movies from the first the one. I received the DVD as a present, watched it once and must say I am not in a hurry to sit through it again. (However, I might skip to the scenes with Keira Knightley, whose radiance is enough to lift any film)
I know there have been hundreds of comments posted regarding this movie, but I just had to post yet another one because people should always comment on their favorite films. A Clockwork Orange qualifies as my favorite. If you have never watched this film, please do yourself a favor and take the time to do so; it is a highly rewarding experience. I won't go into a summary of the plot or the meaning behind any of it all because that has all been discussed at length here by other reviewers. I will simply write that it is impossible to overstate how truly remarkable and unique this film is, and how simply genius the vision and talent of Stanley Kubrick was with regards to A Clockwork Orange. This has been my favorite film since I first saw it about twenty-two years ago. I certainly enjoy and appreciate other films, though no other work in the medium of film has even come close to approaching this film, in my opinion, as the best example of the medium as an art form. (How very fitting that Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the best piece of music ever written, features prominently in this film. A marriage made in Heaven!) Though usually classified in the genre 'science fiction,' this film genuinely defies categorization, so universal is its scope. Every moment of it is poetry. A priceless film and one of humanity's crowning achievements. I'd give it 100 stars out of 10 if that were mathematically possible.
The film revolves around a small town that has a perennially losing football (soccer) team, yet sees its hopes rise when a star is traded to the team. He becomes an instant hit with the townsfolk, who place all their hopes on his shoulders. Alas, it is the nature of sports fame that one is only as good as one's next game and his popularity depends on winning. Will he be good enough to carry the team and win the championship? Set against this backdrop is the love story between a young woman, who is engaged to a successful young businessman, and the soccer star. Without wanting to reveal too much of the story, I will simply say there is more than one philanderer in town. Who ends up with whom? For a comedy, this movie isn't very funny. The plot is not terribly interesting and not many of the characters are sympathetic or likable. Ultimately it is also a little depressing given the fact nothing much positive happens during its course. It is a low budget film as well, though this doesn't necessarily affect it negatively because neither special effects nor big name celebrities are essential to tell the tale.
There are some decent things about the movie that keep it from being a complete waste of time. I did like the glimpse into modern life in East Germany and I like the fact the DVD is presented in German rather than being dubbed. Additionally, karmic reactions provide most of the movie's redeeming values. For example, Sylvia's brother, who exemplifies a young jerk, gets beaten up by the Chinese youth he had bullied. The movie also has an energy and ambition to it that initially hold great promise; unfortunately, the story and pacing don't quite live up to this. The ending is fairly lighthearted, which is welcome, though the "surprise" ending wasn't much of a surprise since it was revealed, albeit very briefly, at the beginning of the movie. I'm not certain why this was done if the intent was to truly provide a surprise.
Finally, it appears the title might be doppeldeutig, referring to both the liberation of the former East Germany from Soviet and Communist control, as well as a sexual liberation of the characters, with interracial, homosexual and adulterous relationships being themes. Whether or not this is the case, the film is not interesting enough to warrant my recommendation.
This film is aided tremendously by the performances of its very charismatic stars, Moritz Bleibtreu and Christiane Paul. For a movie that relies on two people to carry it, it is imperative they appeal to the audience and, fortunately, both succeed. This German movie is everything a road trip movie should be: fun, surprising, unabashedly romantic, filled with well-developed characters and plot twists interesting enough to hold one's attention throughout. It is testament to the solid writing that we genuinely care about both of the main characters and like them so much that we simultaneously want them to attain their own desires as well as those we have chosen for them. I didn't really find any false steps in this movie and every time it seemed to venture into an undesirable area, it ended up advancing the plot in a positive way. No, it isn't terribly realistic, some of it seems contrived and in ways it is somewhat predictable. These faults are forgivable, however, because it is so well done. Another thing that sets this movie apart from the pack is that it is one German movie that does not actually attempt to deal with the country's Nazis past (for once). For me it has the added attractions that some of it was set in Hamburg, where I lived for a time, as well as being in German, which was my major in college. However, that is a personal preference and not everyone will find that terribly appealing. If road trips or romantic comedies are your bag, I recommend this one highly.