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Special Escort

Scripter Maggie Peren makes a chucklesome if not laugh-out-loud funny debut as a feature helmer with "Special Escort," a warmly observed ensembler about five male losers who market themselves as partners for women.

Cast:
With: Florian Lukas, Sebastian Bezzel, Gustav Peter Woehler, Kostja Ullmann, Herbert Knaup, Lisa Maria Potthoff, Nina Kronjaeger.

Scripter Maggie Peren (“Forget America,” “Napola”) makes a chucklesome if not laugh-out-loud funny debut as a feature helmer with “Special Escort,” a warmly observed ensembler about five male losers who market themselves as partners for women. Munich-set romantic comedy has a less glossy tone than many of the genre from the Bavarian burg, plus a likeable cast and some sharp dialogue. A pleasant audience item for festivals and film weeks, pic also has considerable remake potential. Local B.O. in October was moderate.

Motley group comprises portly Olli (Gustav Peter Woehler), whose delicatessen isn’t cookin’; a young doctor of philology, Frank (Florian Lukas), who’s stuck in a househusband role; and cop Gy (Sebastian Bezzel), who has ongoing issues with his insurance company. They’re joined by Giselher (vet Herbert Knaup), a middle-aged ex-manager who can’t get hired to save his life, and 20-year-old X-genner Lasse (Kostja Ullmann), who still lives with his domineering mom.

The guys hatch the idea of hiring themselves out as tasty male morsels for needy femmes when Frank is mistakenly approached by a woman outside an employment agency. Advertising themselves anonymously on a website (“mit Orgasmus Garantie”), the quintet get a kick start when a local newspaper picks up the story. But not all their initial encounters, especially for Frank and Gy, turn out as expected.

Basic concept requires a leap of faith by the audience but, even though it’s set in a recognizable, economically strapped Germany, works at a genre level thanks to the likeable cast. Story, of course, is more about the men’s insecurities, but Peren keeps the tone light and comes up with an equal number of weird/desperate women to parallel the males.

Bezzel is especially good as the cop, who also has an on-off relationship with his new partner, Daphne (Lisa Maria Potthoff, also fine), and Lukas evinces an easy, boyish charm as the perfect New Age partner. Smaller roles are well cast on the distaff side, and tech package, including animated titles, is bright without being glossy.

Special Escort

Germany

Production: A 20th Century Fox (Germany) release of a Claussen & Woebke & Putz Film production, in association with ZDF, Arte. (International sales: Telepool, Munich.) Produced by Uli Putz, Thomas Woebke, Jakob Claussen. Directed by Maggie Peren. Screenplay, Peren, Christian Bayer.

Crew: Camera (color), Christian Rein; editor, Peter Kirschbaum; music, Carolin Heiss, Marc-Sidney Mueller; art director, Heike Lange; costume designer, Caro Sattler; sound (Dolby Digital), Christian Bischoff; casting, An Dorthe Braker. Reviewed at Kino in der KulturBrauerei, Berlin, Nov. 14, 2007. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: With: Florian Lukas, Sebastian Bezzel, Gustav Peter Woehler, Kostja Ullmann, Herbert Knaup, Lisa Maria Potthoff, Nina Kronjaeger.

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