Netflix revives another sort-of-long-gone TV series with Berlin, Berlin: Lolle on the Run, which catches up with the characters from hit German sitcom Berlin, Berlin 15 years after the final episode aired. The series starred Felicitas Woll as Lolle Holzmann, a serially unlucky-in-love comic book artist stumbling through one romantic mishap after another as a young twentysomething in Berlin. Does the film exist merely to stoke nostalgia for fans, or will it draw in a new legion of Lolle devotees?
BERLIN, BERLIN: LOLLE ON THE RUN: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: In voiceover, Lolle (Woll) says she ultimately settled on her plan B. It’s not going well: she’s in handcuffs in front of a judge, mascara running, her wedding dress rumpled. Yes, wedding dress. Jump back a few hours to the altar, where she’s about to exchange vows with her sweet, mildly milquetoast buddy Hart (Matthias Klimsa). They have a lovely flat and their own animation studio and plans to have a baby and it’s all very safe. But. A motorcycle roars. Sven (Jan Sosniok) arrives to bust up the nuptials, and yes, he’s her cousin but she was very much in love with him and his more adventurous vibes. So she melts down and drives off hysterically, racking up moving violations, including running over a cop, and we’re back to the courtroom, where she’s sentenced to community service.
Her first gig is plunging toilets in a school, where she meets fellow adult delinquent Dana (Janina Uhse), who expeditiously steals Lolle’s tablet computer. She desperately needs to get it back; a Hollywood studio is about to pay her a pile of money for the studio and her character Miracle Bunny, who’s big enough to be featured on men’s boxer shorts, a detail we learn soon enough, in a truly awful scene that sort of brings to mind a truly horrific scene from Bad Lieutenant. That scene is among a series of madcap flapdoodling nonsense that contrives to put Lolle and Dana in the woods without cell phones, wearing only towels and running from meth cookers, a nudist hippie cult, a scummy cop and Hart and Sven and maybe a large bear.
Lolle is 38 now. Is she officially TOTS — too old for this shit? Or is this just the rupturing of her life’s status-quo that she needs? Will she and Dana turn their bickering into bonding? Will she ever choose Hart and Sven? Will the plot contort itself in order to reintroduce old-favorite Berlin, Berlin supporting characters out of sheer obligation? Nein spoilerschlitzen!
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: A random selection of good TV series that became movies years later, in order from worst to best: Sex and the City, The Crocodile Hunter, Land of the Lost, Absolutely Fabulous, Dora the Explorer, Breaking Bad, Police Squad!, Shaun the Sheep, Mission: Impossible.
Performance Worth Watching: Woll works hard to sell this material, but frankly, it seems like an impossible task.
Memorable Dialogue: Dana: “You’re all right for an old woman with stress wrinkles.”
Lolle: “Thanks, you too. For a young woman with a pimply butt.”
Sex and Skin: Rampant toplessness via the moaning-weirdo hippies.Our Take: Full disclosure: Like many an American, Berlin, Berlin never landed on my TV radar, so I judge Lolle on the Run in a contextual vacuum. Cutesy-montage flashbacks to scenes from the series keep neophytes in the loop and refresh the memories of returning fans, and that’s about the only part of the film that’s relatively functional. Maybe Lolle pros will find some subtle nuances to appreciate here, but the broad strokes of it consist of desperate stabs at wacky comedy that only serve to distract from the characters’ inner struggles. Which isn’t to say it needs to be more serious — many, many, many films have found a way to leach wit from emotional turmoil, but this is not one of them.
Instead, Lolle on the Run feels like a dumping ground for cliches that are rubbery and unpalatable, like 10-times warmed-over pizza. Nudist cult? Clothes stolen while swimming? Angry swarthy drug dealers? Is this Ernest Goes to Deutschland or something? Maybe it’s some degree of satisfying for longtime fans, but the previously uninitiated might not make it all the way to the end of this thing.
Our Call: SKIP IT. Feels suspiciously like diminishing returns.
Stream Berlin, Berlin: Lolle on the Run on Netflix