Czech films are often pretty damned inventive, but this science-fiction comedy from director Jindrich Polák (VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE) was a particularly ingenious and delightful surprise. Set in the near future, it mixes mistaken identities, time travel, romance, and German Nazis into an unpredictable romp that runs on many of the same time-paradox ideas that were later used in the BACK TO THE FUTURE movies (made nearly a decade later, mind you). It's a lovably absurd gem about the complications inherent in screwing about with the past. Plus it features Adolph Hitler and nuclear weapons. Just think of the sidesplitting possibilities! Peter Kostka stars as twin brothers Jan and Karel Bures; the former has designed a rocket that takes tourists back in time to obscure historical moments, the other pilots the ship, and the siblings have completely opposite personalities. Jan is an quiet, nice guy, while Karel is a womanizing, gambling, chain-smoking slob with a beautiful circus performer fiancee. Meanwhile, a group of old, wealthy, World War II-era Nazis (who've remained alive so long thanks to "anti-aging pills") have a scheme to use this time-traveling vacation alternative to return to WWII and give their hero Hitler a Hydrogen Bomb, with unscrupulous Karel as their inside man. Everything goes haywire when Karel suddenly dies one morning -- choking on a roll -- and uptight Jan takes the place of his spontaneous, fun-loving twin in order to get a taste of his exciting lifestyle. Of course, the 'new' Karel knows nothing about this rendezvous with der Fuhrer. Once in 1940's Germany, the overstuffed plot really begins to roll, with briefcase switcheroos, running into younger versions of themselves, and time-hopping lead Nazi Klaus (THE END OF AGENT W4C's Jirí Sovák) trying to convince Hitler that they aren't lunatics. Plus once our voyagers return to their own time period (well, almost) it leads to even more wacky mix-ups and multiple characters, as Jan struggles to set everything right. Of course, when you have a time machine at your disposal, if at first you don't succeed... The consistently clever (and improbably happy) story culminates with a frantic climax, and although the visual effects are nothing special -- a little trick photography, plus outer space shots that make Supermarionation look believable -- the film's true brilliance rests in its throwaway ideas. There's everything from 'time stewardesses' dressed in period-appropriate garb (such as cavegirl-fur bikinis) to liquid dish detergent that simply dissolves your dirty plates!
© 2005 by Steven Puchalski.