Movie Review: The Polka King (2017)

Starring: Jack Black, Jenny Slate and Jason Schwartzman

Directed by: Maya Forbes

Based on the life of Polish immigrant Polka legend Jan Lewan. With his determination to make it big in the world of music he comes up with a scheme that will get him rich but everything comes close crashing down around him as he received a five year prison sentence for fraud.

The Polka King has received a substantial amount of criticism since its release and most of its criticisms come in the way of the movie lacking in comedy or the comedy being of a poor standard. In all fairness to The Polka King I wouldn’t class it as a comedy myself, it’s more of a biopic drama with hints of comedy mixed in. While Jack Black is known as being a very comedic actor throughout the majority of his career, his portrayal of Jan Lewan opens up a side of Jack Black that rarely gets seen and that’s his character acting which shows off his versatility.

Based on the life of Jan Lewan, a Polish immigrant who came to America to chase the American dream. Working many jobs to provide for his family, his true dream is to become a polka music megastar but things don’t quite go according to plan. With many of his band threatening to quit due to financial reasons, Jan begins taking investments from fans, mostly older people, with promises of offering a 12% return on their money. With more and more money being invested into Jan and his ambitions he finds himself getting into a deeper hole which he’s unable to get out of. When he’s involved in a scandal that points the finger at him issuing bribes so his wife could win a beauty pageant his whole business venture collapses around him. He ends up serving five years in prison for fraud but upon release that doesn’t deter him from chasing the dream.

As mentioned above, Jack Black shows his versatility with a wonderful performance as the optimistic Jan Lewan. He’s charming and witty and despite him fraudulently receiving money from his fans you want him to succeed as he’s such a likeable and pleasant guy. He’s supported by good performances from Jenny Slate, who plays Jan’s wife Marla and Jacki Weaver as Jan’s mother-in-law Barb. The Polka King is a movie that on paper shouldn’t really work but the story was enjoyable and interesting enough for it to hold my attention throughout without any lapses that I can recall.

In conclusion, The Polka King is a solid biopic with some good acting and decent comedy sprinkled throughout. It’s definitely a lot better than many of the reviews online suggest and I would advise watching this with an open mind as it may surprise you as it has me.


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