Snow on New Year’s Eve

A thousand years of inspirational fraudulence rains like confetti upon the slickly contrived "Snow on New Year's Eve," an overblown Teutonic whimsy that's like "Magnolia" OD'd on schmaltz --- or "Wings of Desire" aboard the "Speed" bus. Perhaps with this flushed out of our system, the next few decades can be free from bogus cinematic uplift. Oops --- looks like tyro director Thorsten Schmidt's millennial champagne toast went to our heads. Given its topical end-of-the-century expiration date, glossy but strained comic roundelay won't likely be ringing in the new year in many offshore venues.

With:
Toto ..... Jurgen Tarrach Natalia ..... Tamara Simunovic Zippo ..... Hannes Jaenicke Frank ..... Dieter Landuris Henry ..... Andre Hennicke Nico ..... Niels Bruno Schmidt Nora ..... Nadja Uhl Rory ..... Eric Burdon Carola ..... Barbara Rudnik Ossi ..... Royal Atakpa

A thousand years of inspirational fraudulence rains like confetti upon the slickly contrived “Snow on New Year’s Eve,” an overblown Teutonic whimsy that’s like “Magnolia” OD’d on schmaltz — or “Wings of Desire” aboard the “Speed” bus. Perhaps with this flushed out of our system, the next few decades can be free from bogus cinematic uplift. Oops — looks like tyro director Thorsten Schmidt’s millennial champagne toast went to our heads. Given its topical end-of-the-century expiration date, glossy but strained comic roundelay won’t likely be ringing in the new year in many offshore venues.

Titular holiday in Berlin finds several lost souls interweaving their stories like there’s no tomorrow. Just released from prison after a three-year cocaine possession stint, chunky sad-sack Toto (Jurgen Tarrach) just wants to get his life in order — via his first straight job, piloting a double-decker city bus through the cold night. Likewise, newly freed cellmate Frank (Dieter Landuris) hopes one last big score — picking up a jumbo cocaine delivery with hot-tempered crime boss Henry (AndreHennicke) — will put him on Easy Street, along with his g.f., (Nadja Uhl), who’s anxiously waited out his jail stint. Latter doesn’t realize she’s also being courted by Toto’s wheelchair-bound, lovesick DJ pal, Commander Zippo (Hannes Jaenicke); he woos her on the airwaves, his seeming clairvoyance abetted by a voyeur’s secret window on her apartment.

Meanwhile, fickle fate — working overtime here — makes the pregnant, impoverished Russian emigre Natalia (Tamara Simunovic) attempt suicide by leaping before Toto’s bus. Breaking suddenly, he inadvertently knocks the life out of the drug courier (Royal Atakpa); now Toto’s got a corpse as well as 10 kilos of illegal powder on board. Desperate to bankroll her love child’s future, Natalia insists they hold the stash for ransom.

More wacky misadventures ensue as the clock ticks toward the “miracle” of a new century. Floating above all this nonsense is Rory (vet soul shouter Eric Burdon, of the Animals and War), a drink-addled Irishman who’s rigged up a hot air balloon from which to shoot his ex-wife (Barbara Rudnik), who’s already found a younger lover.

Perhaps we neglected to mention the black bear (liberated from the zoo by a reckless animal rights protester) that somehow manages to board the bus, get drunk and cause a fancifully harmless, if spectacular, accident. (This does occasion the film’s one inspired impudence: a visual parody of “E.T.’s” most twee signature image.) Natalia insists that her baby be born under falling snow, for good luck; Fuzzy Wuzzy foils the crooks and secures this further “miracle” by huffing and puffing their cocaine — which looks just like a cuddlesome winter wonderland!”Snow on New Year’s Eve” features some fancy digital f/x (for the hot air balloon), convincingly faked mass celebrations at midnight and lots of treacly orchestral music to provoke heartwarming emotions. It’s a bigger-than-life crowd-pleaser, or a dismaying load of hooey, depending on your tolerance for such things. The actors maintain their dignity, if not their credibility; tech aspects are high-grade.

Snow on New Year's Eve

(GERMANY)

Production: A Buena Vista Intl. release of a UFA Filmproduktion in association with Westdeutsche Universum-Film, Buena Vista Intl. Film Production, WDR and Arte. Produced by Norbert Sauer, Christian Granderath. Executive producer, Harald Reinhold. Executive co-producers, Heike Hempel, Georg Steinert. Co-producers, Wolfgang Braun, Christoph Ott. Directed by Thorsten Schmidt. Screenplay, Stefan Kolditz.

Crew: Camera (color), Klaus Eichhammer; editor, Claudia Wolscht; music, Ralf Wienrich; music supervisor, Daydream GmbH; production designer, Thomas Freudenthal; costumes, Nanda Beck; sound mixer (Dolby Digital), Dirk Jacob; sound recordist, Roland Winke; special effects supervisor, Jan Stoltz. Reviewed at Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, San Francisco, Jan. 19, 2000. Running time: 100 MIN.

With: Toto ..... Jurgen Tarrach Natalia ..... Tamara Simunovic Zippo ..... Hannes Jaenicke Frank ..... Dieter Landuris Henry ..... Andre Hennicke Nico ..... Niels Bruno Schmidt Nora ..... Nadja Uhl Rory ..... Eric Burdon Carola ..... Barbara Rudnik Ossi ..... Royal Atakpa

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