Sunday, April 10, 2016

Amundsen der Pinguin

If you want to watch Amundsen der Pinguin, you will need to use You-Tube on your computer.  The 2003 made-for-TV film (d. Steven Manuel) was produced in German but the movie is helpfully subtitled in Portuguese.  The picture quality is a bit murky -- the move looks like it has been uploaded from someone's cell-phone and the images are both blurry and slightly faded.  The story concerns some German scientists monitoring penguins at the South Pole.  One of the penguins disgorges an enormous ruby.  Two evil, if inept and comical, bad guys try to bird-nap the penguin.  But the frisky, engaging little fowl is sent to Bremerhaven and, then, Cologne.  Somehow, the penguin ends up in the custody of a Pippi Longstockings kind of heroine -- a plucky eleven-year old girl who hauls the penguin around in her backpack.  The villains appear and attempt to seize the penguin but the girl eludes them, escaping on bicycle, then, train with the criminals in hot pursuit.  Ultimately, the bad guys catch her and the penguin.  (Somehow, her goofy uncle, a penguin specialist in Bremerhaven, is tangled up with the caper -- the bad guys also capture him.)  Everyone ends up at the South Pole again where the penguin leads the characters to a pirate ship entombed in the bowels of a glacier.  A vast pirate treasure beckons.  The villains are defeated and the girl takes from the ice-bound pirate ship a cross studded with emeralds.  In Punta Arenas, the heroine has a vision and enters an ancient church where she returns the stolen cross to the altar.  Back in Cologne, the film ends with the revelation that the heroine has come back with one of Amundsen's penguin eggs -- Amundsen turns out to be female.  The movie's special effects are rudimentary and the acting perfunctory.  The film's principal appeal seems to be the penguin, an endearing little creature that paddles around happily in the bathtub and that runs around with a cute waddle -- the little bird peeps around corners, nervously skitters down sidewalks, and dives like a Stuka from the prow of the boat when Amundsen is returned to her native waters.  The heroine's battle with the bad guys occurs over a long weekend when her parents are mysteriously absent (no doubt there was an explanation given in German that I didn't understand) and, so, the film borrows some scenes from the Home Alone franchise.  The bad guys are too buffoonish to be frightening.   The film is efficiently made although its camerawork is a much too agitated for the subject matter -- the camera flits around like a nervous fly during many scenes.  The only reason anyone would watch this picture is to gaze upon Till Lindeman, the lead singer of Rammstein, trapped in a thankless role as one of the cartoon bad guys.  Lindeman looks like a mournful Fred Flintstone and, without his eye-liner, he doesn't seem too unearthly -- he's a big, clumsy brute playing the kind of role that Wallace Beery would have acted in the thirties:  he has a "mug" not a face.  While attempting to administer mouth-to-mouth respiration to the penguin that is cleverly simulating death, Till gets his nose pinched by the penguin's beak.  For the rest of the film, before he falls in a glacial crevasse and, apparently, perishes, Till runs around with a Band-Aid on his proboscis.  'Nuff said? 

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