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One Movie Punch

Jan 13, 2018

Today’s movie is “The Polka King” (2017), starring Jack Black as Jan Lewan, the infamous Pennsylvania Polka King who used a Ponzi scheme to fund his various ventures. The film was written by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, based in part on the 2009 documentary “The Man Who Would Be Polka King”.

Jan Lewan is a down on his luck Polish immigrant trying to manage his marriage to Marla (Jenny Slate), taking care of her mother, Barb (Jacki Weaver) and a number of questionable business ventures and odd jobs, including a love for polka with his good friend Mickey Pizzazz (Jason Schwartzman). One day, Mickey decides to quit to look for a better paying job, but Jan advises him to wait while he finds investors.

The film follows Jan’s rise and fall, steadily building an uncomfortable tension as he accepts more and more investors, dodges federal inquiries, creates more shaky business ventures, and eventually become embroiled in a scandal surrounding the Mrs. Pennsylvania contest, in which Marla participates.

Jack Black gives a mercurial performance, maintaining an almost over the top character while occasionally dipping into a more serious performance when needed. However, I found the other top billed actors to turn in great supporting roles. Jason Schwartzman plays a great friend. Jenny Slate plays a wonderful Marla. And Jacki Weaver comes alive in the second act, especially with her unexpected lover.

Maya Forbes brought the film to life, which hits the big events in Jan’s life. I loved all the digital effects, the costumes and the direction used to create the time period perfect television commercials and spots, with awkward camera work and all. It is a solid film with a solid cast that doesn’t feel too campy while still keeping a smile on your face.

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

Metacritic: 64

One Movie Punch: 7.0/10

“The Polka King” is not rated and is currently streaming on Netflix.