Plot: Jan Lewan (Jack Black) is well known in his area, a polka star and beloved local fixture. But his local success isn’t enough to satisfy his dreams, as he wants to do more than just play a few local shows and run his gift shop, he wants to live the life of a true music superstar. In an effort to get ahead, Lewan cooks up an idea to ask some of his older fans for investments, promising large returns and VIP status in return, with hopes of making it work somehow. His fans leap at the chance to invest and as he brings in new investors, he uses some of those funds to send interest payments to others, creating a ponzi scheme in the process. To the outside world, he is thriving and his empire grows and grows, with legions of fans to support him and with new investors coming in, he is able to cover his tracks. But behind that facade, Lewan is being crushed by the mess he created and is about to hit a point of desperation, but can the Polka King manage to dance out of this catastrophe?
Entertainment Value: This is based on the real life exploits of polka star Jan Lewan, but this is one of those cases where the truth is stranger than fiction and Lewan’s tale is quite remarkable. This movie was made with Lewan’s involvement and while it is rather sympathetic to his side of things, it also doesn’t shy away from highlighting his less than ideal qualities. Lewan is shown as a well meaning, but naive person who buried himself chasing his dreams, but I am sure to those he bilked out of millions, he isn’t seen as such a kind, misunderstood soul. Even after he is warned about his investment proposals, Lewan simply doubles down and hopes he won’t be discovered, but he was in so over his head, that would be inevitable. But regardless of him being a conman, Lewan is an interesting person and his story makes a fun movie, especially with someone as charismatic as Jack Black in the lead. Black was an ideal choice for the role, as he keeps Lewan likable, even as he ruins the lives of those who have supported him the most over the years. Also in prominent roles are Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman, Jacki Weaver, and J.B. Smoove. I know some will pass just based on the polka element, but anyone who likes larger than life stories, biopics, or Jack Black would be well served to dance to the beat of this one.
No nakedness. Aside from a humorous fling between Jan’s clarinet player and his mother in law, no sexual escapades go down here. A little blood, but it is limited to one scene and it isn’t graphic in nature. Lewan is attacked in prison and while we don’t see the assault, we do see some blood from his wound. The scene is fast and shows little, so you just see a flash of red for a few moments. Jan’s broken English, unique view on the world, and odd charisma ensure some humorous lines come through, while most of the main players also have some fun moments. This story is populated by colorful, outspoken people and that provides a nice stream of dialogue. Not a lot of big, quotable lines perhaps, but still a lot of memorable banter. The colorful characters, especially Lewan himself and the nature of his real life story add a little craziness, but overall this one never goes too wild or over the top.
Overall Insanity: 2/10