A comic road pic filled with local color, “Adventurers” is a cross-generational, cross-border journey that jovially careens down well-traveled paths. Vaguely reminiscent at times of “Little Miss Sunshine,” the pic brings together a son, father and grandfather, all in need of maturity lessons as they drive through Transylvania. Expert timing from the three playful male leads, along with well-placed sight gags, have a universality that should score popularity votes among fest auds. Helmer Bela Paczolay won the freshman director prize at Hungarian Film Week, and local play early in the year saw respectable biz.
Much-married trumpeter Geza (Peter Rudolf) has been kicked out by his current wife; with money tight, he’s living in his car. When dad Istvan (Peter Haumann) calls to say there’s trouble at home in Transylvania, Geza picks up son Andris (Milan Schruff), and the two drive from Budapest to investigate.
On arrival at the ancestral village, Geza learns his mother (Judit Pogany) has gone nuts, constantly screaming at Istvan about imagined mistresses. Geza isn’t willing to rescue his dad, but after a little blackmail on Istvan’s part, the three men take off for Budapest. With Geza temporarily homeless and Andris in the doghouse after racking up gambling debts on his g.f.’s credit card, there’s nowhere to go, but no one is brave enough to fess up.
Pic’s drive comes from the collaborative childishness of Andris and his grandfather, which forces Geza, hardly a model adult, to shoulder the more responsible role. A variety of picaresque encounters await on the drive back, including a sexy widow (Agnes Banfalvy) with a secret in her trunk and gypsy king Jakab (Lajos Kovacs), who has a goddaughter he’s looking to barter.
General premise is hardly new, but Paczolay brings an endearingly madcap pace to the proceedings and exhibits a fine eye for the absurd that results in consistent smiles, with even the occasional belly laugh — the finale is a real treat. While the script rarely rises above stereotypes, overall package is winning, and despite stock figures, the main characters are able to assert personalities of their own.
Part of the credit goes to the three protags, who collectively picked up the best acting prize at the Transylvania Film Festival. Haumann brings a veteran’s confidence to his role, generously handing newcomer-to-watch Schruff the space needed to deploy his own, slow-building charm. Some jokes will work best for local auds, but the vibe coming off these three, as they learn the art of interpersonal relationships while fending off assorted kooks, feels altogether transnational.
Rolling Transylvanian landscape is handsomely lensed by d.p. Gyula Pados (“Fateless”), adding a real sense of place to the road-trip formula. Music is nicely interpolated, moving the scenes along in a helpful if unoriginal way. Running time could be slightly trimmed.