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Film Review: ‘Alky Alky’

Substance abuse is rather literally a man's best friend in this inventive, serious-minded German comedy.

'Alky Alky' Review: German Comedy Anthropomorphizes

Man’s best friend isn’t his dog but his addiction in “Alky Alky,” a pleasingly original comedy from the same collaborators behind “Heavy Girls” and “Reuber.” Neatly balancing absurdism and bittersweet reality, this offbeat German angle on alcoholism has a key fantasy aspect that takes some time revealing itself. Fest-circuit praise could help boost it toward deserved offshore niche sales, primarily in home formats.

Things aren’t quite what they seem when we first meet rotund, middle-aged architect Tobias (Heiko Pinkowski). He appears to be involved in a unique domestic menage with slightly younger doppelganger DeBottle, aka Flasche (Peter Trabner), that the former’s adoring wife Anika (Christina Grobe) and their three kids (played by Pinkowski’s actual offspring) cheerfully tolerate. Even when he ought to be tending the marital bed, Tobias is usually lured out for yet another night’s carousing with DeBottle. The two men appear to share everything — in particular, a bottomless, nearly 24/7 thirst for inebriation.

When a DUI incident puts the children in peril, at long last Anika is no longer amused. Nor is Tobias’ business partner Thomas (Thorsten Merten), who’s seen his soused whims piss away one too many potential contracts. Our hero vows he can and will stop drinking now; DeBottle commences an epic sulk as the household’s many tempting elixirs are dutifully poured down the drain.

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But this best mate — whom by now we’ve realized is something other than your average bar-buddy enabler — won’t call the party quits so easily. Relapses, a rehab stint and more ensue before a conclusion whose ambiguity aptly sobers the antic, lightly fantastical tenor of much preceding it.

Again co-penning the screenplay with his male leads, helmer Heiko Pinkowski crafts an imaginative take on familiar themes that is like “The Lost Weekend” in “The Hangover” disguise. Performers do a very deft job of balancing the farcical and poignant. In a device that agreeably echoes Jonathan Richman’s presence in “There’s Something About Mary,” actor-cum-hip-hop-balladeer Robert Gwisdek (aka Kaptn Peng) periodically appears onscreen to comment on the action in deadpan song.

An equally conspicuous plus is the rakish carny-rock instrumental score by Die Tentakel von Delphi. All other smartly turned design and tech contribs abet the film’s slyly deceptive yet empathetic view of substance abuse as a guest who won’t leave, and whose funhouse version of reality wages war against each person’s terra-firma one.

Film Review: ‘Alky Alky’

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Jan. 17, 2016. (In Slamdance — Beyond. Also in Munich.) Running time: <strong>98 MIN.</strong> (Original title: “Alki Alki.”)

  • Production: (Germany) A Sehr Fute Filme production in association with ZDF—Das Kleine Fernsehspiel. (International sales: Sehr Gute, Berlin.) Produced by Anne Baeker, Dennis Pauls, Heiko Pinkowski, Axel Ranisch. Executive producer, Baeker.
  • Crew: Directed by Axel Ranisch. Screenplay, Heiko Pinkowski, Ranisch, Peter Trabner, from an idea by Trabner. Camera (color, HD), Dennis Pauls; editors, Milenka Nawka, Guernica Zimgabel; music, Kaptn Peng, Die Tentakel von Delphi; production designer, Lena Moritzen; costume designer, Claudia Steinert; sound, Veit Norek; re-recording mixer; Jan Pasemann; sound designer/editor, Johannes Varga; first assistant director, Lea Sauer.
  • With: Heiko Pinkowski, Peter Trabner, Christina Grobe, Thorsten Merten, Oliver Korittke, Eva Bay, Robert Gwisdek, Delphine Pinkowski, August Pinkowski, Paul Pinkowski, Claudia Jacob, Teresa Harder, Thomas Franzel, Iris Berben, Ruth Bickelhaupt, Heiner Hardt.
  • Music By: