English lingo multi-character dramedy "Close to Heaven" is a far cry from the whimsy of the former and much closer to a jaw-dropping miscalculation of the latter. There's little discernable market for this ill-conceived oddity beyond undiscerning cablers and indiscriminate homevid junkies.

An awkward cross between “Amelie” and “The Million Dollar Hotel,” English lingo multi-character dramedy “Close to Heaven” is a far cry from the whimsy of the former and much closer to a jaw-dropping miscalculation of the latter. There’s little discernable market for this ill-conceived oddity beyond undiscerning cablers and indiscriminate homevid junkies.

Ensconced in a makeshift rooftop studio of the titular hotel overlooking Prague, African artist Samuel (Jean Michel Francis Gogo) narrates details about the eccentrics living below him. Disparate boarders include lisping magician Ernest (Petr Vanek, doing a fair imitation of “Down by Law”-era Roberto Benigni); the mysterious Jaegermeister (Miroslav Taborsky); and fussy owner Gut (vet Arnost Goldflam). A small meteorite crashes into the roof, and Samuel begins a relationship with winsome Emily (Tuva Novotny, Swedish star of “Stratosphere Girl”). An unfortunate undercurrent of racial condescension won’t play well in the West, and perfs, though enthusiastic, are all over the map. Production designer Ivo Navrat’s studio-bound outdoor sets and Martin Preiss’ crisp lensing lend pic whatever feeble aura it can muster, while the less said about the awry cadences of stilted, self-conscious English, the better.

Close To Heaven

Czech Republic

Production

A Bontonfilm release (in the Czech Republic) of a Holiday Films presentation and production, in association with ACE, Cinemasound, Construction Heads, 4Movie, Prague Studios. (International sales, MonteCristo Entertainment, New York.) Produced by Dan Svatek, Jiri Holubec, Roman Svatek. Directed, written by Dan Svatek.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W), Martin Preiss; editor, Alois Fisarek; music, Elvis Kititi, Jean M. F. Gogo; production designer, Ivo Navrat; art director, Tomas Svoboda; costume designer, Zuzana Kopecka. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, Australia, April 14, 2006. (In Finale Plzen Film Festival -- competing.) English dialogue. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Tuva Novotny, Jean Michel Francis Gogo, Miroslav Taborsky, Chantal Poullain, Arnost Goldflam, Tonya Graves, Petr Vanek, Curtis Jones.
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