ByErick Balson, writer at
Cinephile, Anime and Comics enthusiast
Erick Balson

Here’s a list of movies that often pop up in greatest-of-all-times lists: Twelve Monkeys, The Departed, Magnificent Seven, True Lies and Ring. What else do they have in common besides being cult classics? They are all Hollywood remakes of foreign films. Get ready to add to that list , a German comedy (I know, right?) about an aging music teacher with a penchant for infantile pranks who tries to shine a light into his daughter Ines’s dreary, soulless corporate life when he invents the persona of "Toni Erdmann" and invades her work circles. The redo is currently in the works courtesy of Paramount Pictures. — who last appeared in a film back in 2010 — is set to star in it, alongside Kristen Wiig.

The film received universal acclaim and was the odds-on favorite to take home the Best Foreign Film prize at the Oscars, only to be upset by Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. (Whether that had something to do with the Academy voters making a political statement in response to Trump’s Muslim ban, which barred Farhadi from attending the awards, is a debate for another day.)

I felt that the film had immense potential and I'm willing to give it a second chance with the remake, thanks to some changes I’m hoping Paramount will make. Whether you loved it, hated it or were somewhere in between (like me), we can hopefully agree that the subsequent alterations should be made:

1. Trim The Running Time

Gratuitous gross-out scene in which Ines munches on a semen-drenched cake. 'Toni Erdmann' [Credit: Sony Pictures Classics]
Gratuitous gross-out scene in which Ines munches on a semen-drenched cake. 'Toni Erdmann' [Credit: Sony Pictures Classics]

Perhaps the biggest criticism against Toni Erdmann is that it’s tedious. With an excruciatingly long running time of 162 minutes, it is a hard watch for most audiences, and is also an anomaly in the comedy genre. Comedies like Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally are marked by traits of relatively short running times and being fast-paced. Television comedies are also shorter than their drama counterparts. Back in 2015, The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences even determined that Orange Is The New Black was ineligible to compete in the comedy category because of its episodes’ one-hour running time.

Scenes linger for way longer than necessary, and at the end of the day you have an almost three-hour, bloated experience that, with some proper editing skills, could be a 100 minute movie. This is one of the changes I’m certain will be enacted considering a comedy with a length of Scorcesean proportions doesn’t come with a lot of box office potential.

2. Ines-Winfried Backstory

Ines and a costumed-Winfried embracing. 'Toni Erdmann' [Credit: Sony Pictures Classics]
Ines and a costumed-Winfried embracing. 'Toni Erdmann' [Credit: Sony Pictures Classics]

Toni Erdmann is, at its core, about a tenuous father-daughter relationship. But the audience never really gets a peak into how Winfried and Ines’s relationship got so gossamer to the point that the former wasn’t aware of his daughter’s birthday celebrations. Crafting a back story will draw the audience deeper into what is essentially the framework of the entire narrative.

3. Drop Some Of The Jokes

'Toni Erdmann' [Credit: Sony Pictures Classics]
'Toni Erdmann' [Credit: Sony Pictures Classics]

One of the running gags in the movie is when Winfried wears a set of fake teeth in settings that mandate a certain level of gravitas. While this works the first two times, it quickly falls flat because of its repetitiveness.

4. Use A Different Camera Style

The sloppy camerawork is jarring and benumbs the viewer to any meaningful experience it aims to ignite in them. I get the need to use handheld cameras — it offers a sort of realism to movies and when pulled off correctly can be an amazing cinematic experience, but I felt it didn’t quite work out here.

What changes would you like to see in the Toni Erdmann remake?


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