Classic Hollywood screwball meets New German Comedy in “Four for Venice,” a slickly packaged, well-played combo of road movie and marital romp in which a mismatched pair hunt down their canoodling spouses in Gondola City. Though it isn’t one for the arthouse crowd, this well-paced pic could prove an audience-pleaser in the right territories as well as filling tube time in others. Remake rights also look salable.
Though the movie springs no surprises in its overall structure and resolution, its working out is consistently inventive and the perfs thoroughly enjoyable. Script by helmer Vivian Naefe and three other writers has a tight, well-worked feel, and is far removed from the rambling first drafts that too often make it onto European screens.
Story centers on two Munich couples: Nick (Heino Ferch), a star lawyer, and Charlotte (Hilde van Mieghem), a banker, plus hard-up painter Luis (Gedeon Burkhard) and his neglected wife, Eva (Aglaia Szyszkowitz), who’s making ends meet as a waitress. When Eva finds her husband has slid off with Charlotte for some hanky-panky in Venice, she kidnaps Nick with a water-pistol and drives him and her two young kids down south to get back her man.
True to the genre, their journey turns into a humbling experience for the arrogant, control-freak Nick and a gradual eye-opener for the gutsy Eva. As the latter, offbeat looker Szyszkowitz (a newcomer from TV) more than holds her own with the more experienced, showy Ferch, whose physical shtick as a yuppie who loses first his credit cards and then his dignity powers the movie from start to finish.
Pic doesn’t lose any puff once it reaches Venice: The second half manages several neat twists before the finale on the Lagoon.
As the surreptitious lovers, Burkhard and Van Mieghem are basically supports, but both are thoroughly in tune with the general feel of the movie. Attention to detail extends to the casting of Eva’s two kids, who get some of the best lines, and to the peppy-romantic score by Dieter Schleip. Judicious snipping of some brief nudity and sex jokes would widen pic’s audience in some territories.