The Polka King (2017) reviewed by Jonathan Berk
The Polka King (2017) dropped on Netflix starring Jack Black, Jenny Slate, and Jason Schwartzman, and the cast alone was enough to pull me in. But add directors Maya Forbes (Infinitely Polar Bear) and Wallace Wolodarsky, who has worked with Wes Anderson, and there was no way I was going to miss it. After watching it, the feeling of affection wasn’t as strong as the anticipation was going in. Not that it’s a bad movie, but it didn’t really do anything to really stand out.
The Polka King didn’t do much for me
Based on the true story of Jan Lewan (Black), Jan is a Polish immigrant who is the self-proclaimed Polk King of Pennsylvania who comes to the realization that he needs to be bringing in more money. He begins taking investments from fans and people he knows in the community in an attempt to make his American dream come true. Things spiral out of control, and he gets in over his head.
I’m not 100% sure what a Polish accent is supposed to sound like, but I don’t think it’s the same as Nacho Libre. Despite that, the film doesn’t pose Jan to be as much of a villain as he is a guy who is constantly optimistic. He seems to believe that he will be able to pay everyone back once the “next big thing” happens. His mother-in-law Barb (Jacki Weaver) never believes he has what it takes, but his wife, Marla (Jenny Slate), and fellow band member, Mickey Pizzazz (Jason Schwartzman) trust him. It’s a compelling story that I knew nothing about before the film.
The downside to this film is that it is completely lackluster. There wasn’t ever a moment that pulled me in or specifically stood out. It’s a completely by-the-numbers kind of comedic biopic that pokes fun at the absurdity of this individual and those he duped. The performances are fine, and the tone of the film even has a bit of the Wes Anderson vibe, but it’s ultimately vanilla.
If you’ve cycled through Netflix’s endless collection of movies you’ve barely heard of, and you’ve seen all the stuff worth watching, then there’s no reason not to watch The Polka King. It’s good enough to pass the time with, but I too now feel like I was kind of duped by Jan . Then again, I was shocked when I realized it was a biopic, and that this guy had really done these things. The Polka King earns the Decent Watch rating.