Do you know what Polka is? Well, if you decide to check out The Polka King, a heartwarming comedy based on true events, you will find out. And then some. First of all, The Polka King is a movie about Jan Lewan, a Polish musician, and entrepreneur who became quite popular in the nineties. Believe it or not but his album Jan Lewan and His Orchestra was nominated for a Grammy in 1995. Now, what he did off stage was a bit shady but more about that later. Right off the bat, I have to tell you that the storytelling along with the script here isn’t the greatest.
Luckily, the sheer bizarreness of the real events along with a couple of performances made this an enjoyable experience. The Polka King wouldn’t be The Polka King without its main star Jack Black. This is the second time he plays a man with a kind of a kind heart, the first one being in Bernie. His screen presence and charisma helped cover up some of the issues. I also liked Jacki Weaver as Barb, she was freaking hilarious. Now, there will be drama here too, just so you know. But that’s just life for ya.
Jan Lewan is one hell of a character and his determination is a thing to behold. At the end of the movie, we will get the chance to see him in action and I highly recommend you wait for that bit. He optimizes the American spirit although he’s Polish. He’s a hardworking man ready to put himself on the line and help those around him. He believes in the American Dream while his life might feel to someone like an American nightmare.
Although Jan Lewan’s polka band is playing a lot of dates, he’s barely making any money. He has to work odd jobs just to make ends meet but he still dreams of becoming The Polka King. However, when band members threaten to leave the band, he will be forced to do something or face failure. So, when an opportunity appears, Jan decides to take advantage of it. And from there, things start snowballing into more and more complex situations…
With a running time of just ninety minutes, The Polka King is a short and sweet affair you can watch at any time. It feels very honest and realistic making it perfect for analysis. Who knew that a comedy like this could be such a captivating character study. Every person we’re going to meet in this movie has something to tell us. And not just about us humans, but also the world we live in and how it works. I say this because all of us have a different perception of reality and sometimes it’s quite sobering to see people feel out the boundaries.
And I’m not talking about the whole Polka thing because that’s a whole ‘another thing. I mean, these were the nineties for fucks sake and people were still being blown away by an act like this? I ain’t mad or hating, it’s just amazing. It’s so heartwarming to see people genuinely enjoy something like this. Especially for someone as jaded as me. It reminded me of The Righteous Gemstones and that whole vibe. Mama told me not to, I did anyway. Misbehavin’… But I digress, if you want to know more about this case, do check out the 2009 documentary The Man Who Would Be Polka King.
Director: Maya Forbes
Writers: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky
Cast: Jack Black, Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman, Jacki Weaver, J.B. Smoove, Willie Garson, Robert Capron
Fun Facts: The original Jan Lewan Orchestra members recorded the soundtrack along with Jan Lewan who was coaching Jack Black on his vocals.