DVD Movie Review: Toni Erdmann

By Thom Compton 07.04.2018

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Toni Erdmann (UK Rating: 15)

Clocking in at a little over two-and-a-half-hours, Toni Erdmann - out now on DVD via Thunderbird Releasing - is a rather lengthy film. This isn't to say that for a dramatic comedy it is too long, but it definitely runs longer than similar films. To its credit, however, it makes the most of that run time. Still, it's not always about what you add, but what you cut, and Toni Erdmann could have left some of its scene behind.

Toni Erdmann follows  Winfried (Peter Simonischeck), a rather silly older man who decides to reconnect with his daughter, Ines. Ines is a consultant for an oil company that is currently working on sealing a deal in Bucharest. Hence, she's always busy, and barely has enough time for her own life, let alone connecting with her father. It's not just how busy she is, though, it's also how cold she seems to have become. The only signs of sadness come when there are hiccups in their deal with the Romanian government. The only signs of happiness come when these deals proceed well.

It's not entirely her fault, though. Ines deals with several men who constantly undermine her, including a boss who shoots her ideas down with little regard. She's overworked and feels underutilised. This is juxtaposed to Winfried, a mostly carefree man who just tries to exist. He moves through life without regard to where he is going, and seems to hold true to a mantra that includes "As long as there's a joke."

When Winfried, then, decides he is going to reconnect with his daughter, and try to give her a better quality of life, he isn't taking no for an answer. One of his most prominent ruses is Toni Erdmann, a charismatic man who's also just a little bit goofy. The relationship between him and Ines is the focal point of the second hour of the film, as he goes around Bucharest and learns what Ines does and picks apart her corporate persona.

At such a long runtime, Toni Erdmann actually holds up. The performances are all stellar, and a lot of the humour is a weird mix of morbid and silly. There are times when the film doesn't seem to know exactly what it wants, however. It goes from a father and daughter bonding flick, to the introduction of Toni Erdmann who, at first, comes off like some sort of Rob Schneider dollar bin film hero. Fortunately, Toni grows on you, and it's clear it's not just a gimmick, at least on the film's behalf. Instead, it's an elaborate and beautiful way for a father to reach out to his estranged daughter.

The problem is that there are a number of scenes that don't seem to actually matter. During a birthday party that goes awry, the film seems to be revelling in the chaos, and while the scene is mostly funny, it doesn't seem like it really mattered. The movie has a bad habit of reiterating points over and over, as though to convince itself of something. Yes, characters build up over the film, but not enough that it feels like it couldn't have been done with less hammering home of the same few ideas.

Additionally, a lot of the character development is kind of boring. Sure, it's nice to see Gerald, Ines' boss, start to take her a bit more seriously and see her as a peer instead of an employee, but did it have to happen? Toni Erdmann is the journey of Ines above everyone else, so seeing other people grow is nice, but not really all that interesting. In Gerald's case, it's actually quite bizarre given how quickly he just changes his ways.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
All things considered, Toni Erdmann is a great movie that just lingers a bit too long on hammering the point home. It's irritating when television shows constantly repeat the same handful of ideas, and as movies have less time, it's even easier for them to get annoying. Overall, the experience is definitely worth putting up with the repetition of ideas and, by the end, it will feel like at least a little something has changed. It just doesn't feel like it was completely worth the journey by the time it does.

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