Kummeli Film Series review

The fifth movie by the Finnish sketch crew Kummeli, tentatively titled Kummeli V, is coming out next year. Now that I’ve watched all four previous films here are my quick thoughts on them…

kummeli stories DVDKummeli Stories (1996)

Kummeli’s very first feature film was a natural progression from their popular TV sketch show: long-form skits punctuated by a loose frame-narrative about a war breaking out between Finland and Luxembourg. Stories is definitely a treat for fans of the TV-show more than anything else. It has all the juvenile comedy of the show, low-production values and familiar punch-line and repetition you could want.

In that, it’s also the least ambitious of the Kummeli films. Despite excellent direction and cinematography (though I must confess, Kummeli has always possessed these), the film doesn’t really offer anything you wouldn’t get out of the show, which is a little disappointing. The comedy is a little bit more concentrated and I think the escalation of skits (from the ordinary absurdity to horror movie parody) works well, but others might find having to look at the actors playing the same one-trick pony characters for 15 minutes at a time too grinding to bear.

Still, I think the first movie is a good effort, if a little un-adventurous.

Rating: 3 out 5

***

Kummeli_KultakuumeKummeli: Kultakuume (Goldrush, 1997)

If Kummeli’s first movie was playing it safe with a familiar structure and even a few familiar characters, Kultakuume is a horse of a different colour. A period piece, comical, adventure road-trip film is quite a leap. Kummeli’s overstated performances might have been a bit hard to handle for 15-minutes at a time, so what about having the boys play the same characters for the entire length of a film? Surprisingly, they pull it off.

That’s because unlike the characters in Stories, who were set up short-term for easy laughs, this time the actors dedicate themselves to characters with ambitions and goals. I might even go so far to say that this movie features the first notable homosexual lead character (even if a little stereotypical). The characters are sympathetic, all losers tired of being kicked around, who go in search of Elmeri’s (Heikki Silvennoinen) father’s old gold-site but instead find a chest of Third Reich Gold. Insanity follows.

Kultakuume makes good use of long-form narrative and cut-aways. It treats the characters as real people, even Jönssi and Dille (Heikki Vihinen & Timo Kahilainen) who are undoubtedly the most traditional Kummeli sketch-characters in the film. With stylish cinematography, sympathetic figures, a strong plot and a generally uplifting, silly atmosphere – Kultakuume transcends its farcical premise and becomes a true classic.

Rating: 5 out of 5

***

kummelin jackpotKummelin Jackpot (Kummeli’s Jackpot, 2006)

It took the Kummeli boys quite a while to get their next movie in theatres. I remember people really liking Jackpot, but I only recently got around to see it. I was a little disappointed.

Whereas a bit of self-loathing has been a part of Kummeli, Jackpot just didn’t deliver the goods. The characters were far less likeable than in the prior two movies and the lead in particular (once again played by Silvennoinen) was probably the most conflicted I had seen. Yes, he’s a swindler but I was expecting him to actually turn a new leaf by the film’s end. Which he never does and so the movie is left in a bit of an emotional void…

It might be that I just lack the appreciation for a comedy this dark, but Jackpot just didn’t offer enough notable or novel elements. The characters who I wanted to win out in the end, never really did, and the characters are filled with loads of depressing catharsis. This film may be worth checking out for those who think Kummeli are only capable of producing immature pap – but honestly, it’s just a very unfunny comedy.

Rating: 1½ out of 5

***

Kummeli_poster3.aiKummeli: Alivuokralainen (Sub-tenant, 2008)

I was actually a little worried when the fourth Kummeli movie came out so quickly after the third one. As it turns out, Sub-tenant was originally a stage play that was made into a film and this is definitely the film’s biggest weakness. It’s built a little bit in a way that would require a live audience to enjoy. The comedy is a little bit more artificially set up and lacks the organic quality of Kummeli’s comedy, born out of the situation and characters.

Having said that, I feel now that the movie is a definite leap over Jackpot. It stars another cast of misfits trying to cope with an unbearable situation and the story actually takes an unexpected direction. Comedian Mikko Kivinen, a divorced and disgruntled surgeon, strangely complements the much more happy-go-lucky and clueless Silvennoinen, playing an insect expert, for whom we can again openly cheer for and who finds his romantic partner, this time, in Timo Kahilainen’s flamboyant decorator. This film has unquestionably the best production values and I think the performances of the Kummeli cast are excellent.

The film’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t really feel like Kummeli, but that’s not necessarily a weakness. The actors have pulled away from complete absurdity to play fleshed out characters in a scenario that isn’t as adventurous (in the actual sense of adventure) as in Kultakuume. I highly recommend checking this movie out (as it actually has an official English translation), but also stress that this is not Kummeli at their finest (although the movie is definitely a lot of fun).

Rating: 3½ out of 5

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