Ethnic comedies don’t get much more enjoyable than “Kebab Connection,” an imaginatively directed laffer working off tensions between Turkish and Greek emigrants in Germany. Stereotypes are played thick and fast, but good-natured self-mockery and star Dennis Moschitto’s terrific physicality carry the pic, even when it wimpishly ties everything up at the end. Helmer Anno Saul seems like a kid in a candy shop with his inspired parodies, closer to the inventiveness of “The Simpsons” than a certain well-known Greek wedding. Home success in its late March opening seems certain, making a connection to international screens likely.
Wannabe helmer Ibo (Moschitto) gets backing from his uncle to promote the family’s King of Kebab greasy spoon by filming a commercial to run at a local cinema. The advertisement, a spot-on martial arts parody replete with dueling shish kebab spears and wire tricks, works wonders at the theater and makes Ibo a local hero. It also increases his uncle’s business tenfold at the expense of the Greek tavern across the street.
Even though he can’t sell the idea of a feature-length German kung-fu pic to a real producer, Ibo’s riding high until g.f. Titzi (Nora Tschirner, an MTV VJ in Germany) announces she’s pregnant. Ibo’s traditional Turkish dad, Mehmet (Guven Kirac), blows a gasket and kicks him out, after reminding him of the dictate: You can sleep with a German girl, but never get her pregnant.
Screenplay toys with the whole Turkish machismo thing, with Titzi testing Ibo to see if he’s willing to share the responsibilities of parenthood. (Helmer Saul crafts a hilarious lampoon of the baby-carriage scene from “Battleship Potemkin.”) Titzi isn’t amused by Ibo’s defensive jocularity and she declares a separation until he can figure out exactly what he wants.
Meanwhile, Ibo’s second commercial for his uncle, this time with a gangster theme, fails to draw crowds, and Ibo decides to shape up and learn how to be a hands-on father before the delivery date. Some of the more cliched aspects — a diaper-changing scene feels especially ancient — could be trimmed, and pic’s last quarter spends too much time creating standard misunderstandings so everything can be righted in the end.
Although Saul occasionally tries to cram too much in, his knack for witty spoofs and sharp comic timing make the most out of the script’s playful balancing of cultures. Heading the list of writers is German-born Turk Fatih Akin, an experienced helmer in his own right who bagged a Golden Bear at the 2004 Berlin fest for “Head-On.”
Like Saul, star Moschitto largely cut his teeth in TV, and his physical clowning, all high energy and bouncy excitement, nails down the homeboy swagger of Ibo’s cool, likable charm. As Ibo’s bewildered father, Turkish actor Kirac conveys just the right amount of sternness surrounding an expectedly teddy-bear core.
Tech credits look great, with Ibo’s commercials given suitable changes in mood and look, and underscoring the genre-busting takeoffs is the terrific use of music, enhancing the comic elements. Title puns on the U.S. one (“The Chinese Connection”) of Bruce Lee’s 1972 chopsocky “Fist of Fury,” among others.