Review: ‘Men At Arms’

Although helming is credited to newcomer Kaaren Kaer, Estonian spoof epic "Men at Arms" is reportedly the product of a group effort on the part of comedy-writing collective O-Fraktsioon. "Men" tickled young auds' funny bones in its post-fall 2005 release, but doesn't seem to have enough belly laughs to conquer foreign territories.

Although helming is credited to newcomer Kaaren Kaer, Estonian spoof epic “Men at Arms” is reportedly the product of a group effort on the part of comedy-writing collective O-Fraktsioon, whose membership includes Kaer plus pic’s co-scribes Tonis Leht, Lauri Lippmaa and Erik Moora. Part semi-serious crack at enacting medieval Estonian history, part sub-Monty Pythonesque parody, “Men” tickled young auds’ funny bones in its post-fall 2005 release, but doesn’t seem to have enough belly laughs to conquer foreign territories.

During the time of the crusades, young blond idealist Uru (Ott Sepp) returns from Western Europe after receiving a monastery education to help his fellow countrymen defend Estonia from imperialist Germans and conniving Gauls. Comic highlight comes in a protracted scene showing pagan warlords bickering over best way to fight off their enemies. “Let us build a giant wooden hedgehog,” suggests one, raising hopes of Trojan horse ploy. “And then fill it with lots of little hedgehogs.” Big climactic battle scene, using many spoons-worth of fake blood, isn’t half bad, but pic suffers from an indeterminate tone and feels like a series of sketches cobbled together.

Men At Arms

Estonia

Production

An Exitfilm, O-Fraktsioon Ou, ETV production, with the support of the Estonian Film Foundation, Estonian Cultural Endowment, Estonian Ministry of Culture. (International sales: Exitfilm, Tallinn, Estonia.) Produced by Anneli Ahven. Co-producers, Tonis Leht, Lauri Lippmaa, Erik Moora. Directed by Kaaren Kaer. Screenplay, Kaer, Tonis Leht, Lauri Lippmaa, Erik Moora.

Crew

Camera (color), Andrus Prikk; editors, Juri Shestakov, Tambet Tasuja; music, Ulo Krigul; art directors, Leen Vorno, Marge Martin. Reviewed at Black Nights Film Festival (Estonian Feature Film Competition), Tallinn, Estonia, Dec. 6, 2005. Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Ott Sepp, Mirtel Pohla, Uku Uusberg, Argo Aadli, Ullar Saaremae, Ain Maeots, Mait Malmsten, Mart Avandi, Raivo E. Tamm.
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