Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann ★★

2016 Ranked

Toni Erdmann is not a funny movie at all. It is cringe comedy for two hours and forty two minutes. This film is a major misfire that really flew right past me and made me wonder if everybody else was watching the same film I was. Immediately, I knew that this was a film that would likely not be my style once the character of Winfried Conradi / Toni Erdmann (Peter Simonischek) was introduced. With childish jokes left and right that are incomprehensible as jokes in the human realm, the film continuously shows his prank-influenced style of jokes in a nearly three hour long compilation of YouTube pranks. Going to Romania to try and make sure his daughter Ines (Sandra Huller) is enjoying life in the country, the film shows him try to get her cheer up and become less serious. While their relationship is nice, the film itself is really anything but for most of the runtime.

The jokes vary from being completely undetectable to being cringe-inducing when he ruins her business dealings in Romania to being just flat-out childish. Examples of each are when he tells the guy there is a bomb in a package, him creating the alter ego of Toni Erdmann who holds various titles and is all an inside joke where he pretends to be somebody else to creep on his daughter, or when he sits on a whoopy cushion. In essence, whoever conceived of the comedy in the film likely just finished watching an Adam Sandler movie and Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot. Considering I did not like the latter and Sandler movies are universally trash, there is no way Toni Erdmann was going to be a film I was going to enjoy with this style of comedy and awkward humor at its core. There was honestly not really a moment where I chuckled or came near smiling, except in sarcasm when I got progressively more-and-more aggravated that I was wasting nearly three hours of my life watching this schlock.

However, fortunately, its drama is very good at times. I still hate the father character who is one-note and has no idea how to relate to his daughter beyond making childish daughters. Meanwhile, his daughter is a serious businesswoman. Sure, I do not understand having that much passion for your career, but she does. Why is she the bad guy who just will not let her grating father into her life? He sucks. I would cut him off too. What is worse is when his influence begins to rub off on her with the cringe-inducing naked party to build team chemistry. A last second decision to cover up her own error, the party is a failure and an intensely awkward at that. However, Toni Erdmann really saves itself in the final act with a raw and emotion-filled scene between Winfried and Ines where they discuss happiness and life. The two have finally come together again and no longer have that great distance between them, which is a nice thing to see. I just wish that Winfried was not eye gougingly annoying, which is he is not in his best moments such as at the egg painting party. Raw and open about who he is and how he wishes his daughter could lighten up, the audience can really root for the guy in this moment. Unfortunately, it is immediately followed up with him showing up to the naked party in a huge mascot outfit, which is a major turn off and plays too heavily on absurdist and awkward humor, considering his daughter is naked right in front of him.

However, the strong dramatic leanings of the film are undone with a gratuitous runtime that never really justifies itself. The film floats by for nearly three hours and I could never really figure out why it had done so. This is a film where I wish some American studio got their hands on it and cut it down from 162 minutes to 90 minutes. It never needed to be that long and needed to go under the knife for some serious liposuction. As it stands, it is a tall task to watch with practically no enjoyment in store whatsoever. It is not funny. Its drama borders on annoying until the final act. Its characters are all one-dimensional with Winfried being nothing but a goof ball who loved his dog and daughter, while Ines is just a stuck up bitch of a businesswoman (a character trait that is becoming far too common nowadays, as if there is no middle ground between a woman who is passionate about her career and one who is just a callous bitch who cuts jobs without blinking). Thus, even its character study inclinations fall flat and really reveal very little about the nature of the characters as individuals, only in the context of how they behave with one another.

Fortunately, it is this father-daughter relationship and both of their attempts to try and mend that broken link. However, the film is so unrelentingly unfunny, crude, and poorly written, its emotional core is nearly entirely blotted out. Had this film been a tight 90 minutes or a little more, it would have been far more enjoyable, as a lot of the fluff and annoying bits would have been cut out. Unfortunately, it is 162 minutes long and never seems likely to end.

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