A young dreamer plans to transform a chunk of Eastern European wilderness into a Caribbean-themed destination resort, but doesn’t anticipate the nationalist squabbles sparked by the plan, in broadly played comedy “Schroeder’s Wonderful World.” Ambitious contempo spin on “Local Hero” rides out longish running time on thesping brio and visual humor, with rep of “Schultze Gets the Blues” helmer Michael Shorr a draw for fests, arthouses and niche ancillary.
Pic is set in a vast and defunct strip-mining area in the so-called Silesia region, where Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic bump into one other. Nationalism still runs high in the small towns that dot the landscape, and this patriotism in the face of globalization is the springboard for Schorr’s culture-clash comedy.
In a burst of unexpected good fortune, naive young entrepreneur Frank Schroeder (Peter Schneider) is finally able to sell his theme-park concept, “Magic Lagoon,” to Russian-born American industrialist John Gregory (Juergen Prochnow). Though bringing the full weight of his Paradise Corp. to bear on the project, the sloganeering Gregory, author of “Kill to Grill,” is really only interested in going wolf-hunting there. “The Cold War is over,” he nevertheless exhorts Frank from the company helicopter, “the tropical heat is on!”
Problem is, now that he’s project manager, Schroeder has no idea how to proceed. Bulk of the pic involves his strenuous efforts to get a trio of two-bit local dignitaries to make nice. These include his own father, Theo (Karl-Fred Mueller), mayor of German hometown Tauchritz; elderly Polish nuclear reactor exec Krukovsky (Stanislaw Jaskolka), who finds anything outside his limited understanding “tricky”; and Czech golf nut Janacek (Igor Bares), who dreams of capping his own tenure as mayor by persuading Frank to create the Grabstejn Open.
Frank’s plans are further complicated by his Uncle Wigbert (Gerhard Olschewski), a nutty nationalist who fears any tampering with the status quo, and love interest Maria (Michaela Behal), a talent agent who struggles mightily to get the absorbed entrepreneur to pay her any attention. Things come to a comic boil when Gregory himself shows up for that promised wolf hunt.
Schorr works hard to create a crowded raft of largely appealing oddballs, but then strains to give them all something to do. That said, such funny secondary touches as a stone-faced groundskeeper, or a trio of little old ladies who cadge “ciggies” at a remote bus stop, add to pic’s mischievous atmosphere.
Stealing “There’s Something About Mary’s” most charming conceit, composer Bernd Begemann pops up every once in a while as Maria’s guitar-playing client, an earnest musical bard whose seemingly improvised confessionals — including climactic “No Luck in the East” — comment directly on the action.
Tech credits are pro, led by inspired widescreen framing by lenser Tanja Trentmann and authentic production design by Natascha E. Tagwerk. Improbably effective use is made of the Brian Wilson composition “Our Prayer,” from the long-gestating “Smile” project.