The latest Aki Kaurismaki film to hit the local art house circuit is even goofier than Kaurismaki's "Ariel." Unfortunately, it is also much less satisfying.
For those unfamiliar with Kaurismaki, the plot alone will give you an idea of just how eccentric this Finnish filmmaker can be:
A nine-member polka band in Finnish Lapland performs an audition, only to be told it should go to America because Americans will accept anything.
Being naive and pliable, the band decides to do just that. Unfortunately, one of the band members stays up all night on the frozen tundra practicing and is apparently dead the next day. The rest of the band decides to take him along anyway.
When they arrive in New York, the band and its manager all wearing hairstyles with what appears to be a lethal widow's peak and Persian slippers that could also pass for weapons try out for a promoter. He gets them a gig at a wedding in Mexico.
So, they buy a car, strap their frozen member in a coffin filled with ice and drilled with holes to accommodate his hair and shoes to the roof, and head across America, with stops along the way to brush up on American rock 'n' roll; nothing post-1968, of course.
Kaurismaki seems to be going for a sort of low-key "Airplane!" approach, throwing out off-the-wall gags, but without the frantic pacing. That would be fine if it were funny enough, but the script apparently didn't provide enough material, so we see a lot of roadside scenery and hear lots of music. When the band plays its lengthy sets, however, tedium sets in. The Leningrad Cowboys are neither bad enough to be funny nor good enough to sustain interest.
As for the players, sad to say not one of the band members emerges as a real character. They are amusing in their dopey, deadpan way, but after awhile it just seems redundant.
What we have here is a "Saturday Night Live"-type skit. And the film is funny and charming for about 15 minutes. After that, it all too rapidly begins to wear out its welcome.
Rated PG for mild violence and profanity, "Leningrad Cowboys Go America" is a disappointment after the uniquely satisfying "Ariel."