You don’t have to be Polish to enjoy “The Polka King,” on Netflix, but it helps.
The horn driven duple time sounds of Jan Lewan, the Pennsylvania Grammy nominee known by the film’s title sobriquet and enthusiastically played by Jack Black, are the heartbeat of polka music and familiar to anyone who grew up with Fritz the Plumber, or something like it, on the radio in the background.
The multiple rousing musical scenes include a dancing chicken and bear as part of a ten piece orchestra fronted by a handkerchief waving Black bursting out of sequined leisure suits, with Jason Schwartzman on clarinet.
Lewan was a popular and self made immigrant who sold vodka, pierogis and led Vatican tours, who kept his businesses afloat through a Ponzi scheme that preyed on the elderly.
He was even accused of fixing of a beauty contest for his wife, played by Jenny Slate. And he ended up serving five years in prison.
His defiant mother-in-law played by Jacki Weaver never believed him for a second.
This is all cartoonishly portrayed, but is sporadically enjoyable thanks to Black’s full throated performance reminiscent of John Candy and Eugene Levy in SCTV’s Schmenge Brothers – minus the facial moles – and Black’s likable swindler in “Bernie.”Posted by