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Die Kängaru Verschwörung

Directors: Marc-Uwe Kling, Alexander Berner (Germany). Year of Release: 2022

Previously… Marc-Uwe starts to tell us the story of Die Kängaru Chroniken, the previous film in this series. He hasn’t said more than a few words before he is interrupted by the kangaroo which we also met first time round. The kangaroo starts to tell a long tale based in historical fable, but basically ends up with one message: the more time goes on, the more stupid people get.

Marc-Uwe and Maria have finally got together on a date – in a “dark restaurant”, where the waiting staff are blind and the lights are turned off so that you can appreciate the senses of taste and smell. The problem is that the kangaroo has decided to invite himself along, and he’s brought his torch. After a scuffle with security, the kangaroo – and Marc-Uwe – are banned from the restaurant for life. Marc-Uwe’s chances of a second date are looking pretty slim.

But Maria agrees to a bet. She’ll go on a second date if Marc-Uwe can convince her mother Lisbeth that climate change is not a conspiracy theory. Maria will even pay for a dinner for two in Paris. The downside of the bet is that if Marc-Uwe loses, they have to swap flats – and he’s one of the few people left in Kreuzberg who has a rent contract at the prices when rent was affordable. This is a joke particularly aimed at people who live in Berlin and their rental pain.

Marc-Uwe is so desperate for the date that he agrees immediately. Maria sends him to a meeting about climate change conspiracy which Lisbeth is attending. Actually, Lisbeth, aka Diesel-Liesel is doing much more than just attending. Maria neglected to say that her mother is the main speaker, who has a youtube channel which she uses to espouse the latest conspiracies. Convincing Lisbeth that this is all nonsense may be a little more difficult that Marc-Uwe was anticipating.

Marc-Uwe has another problem. Maria’s ex Joe is back in town, after a prison spell for liberating North Korean political prisoners. As well as being a human rights activist, Joe is loved by everyone. They fondly remember how he carried a washing machine up four flights on his own. Lisbeth’s house is full of Joe’s paintings. Joe even proves to be an efficient defence lawyer when the need arises.

There is a running gag about making difficult decisions by playing rock-paper scissors, or increasingly obscure variations on the theme. The first time round, it is not particularly funny, but at least it brings the plot forward. The more often the joke recurs, the more tiresome it becomes. There is nothing behind it – just the idea that using such a random game to make important decisions – and winning every time is hilarious in and of itself.

Back to the plot. All roads lead to the Conspiracy Convention in Bielefeld (where else?), where Lisbeth is due to perform. Marc-Uwe and the kangaroo borrow Joe’s electric car (can you guess what happens when they run out of power in a small village?) Lisbeth travels out of principle only by plane. When they reach the convention it is full of snake oil salesmen, neo-Nazis and normal people who are stupid enough to believe them. Lisbeth’s conviction starts to waver.

I found that the Kängaru Verschwörung was neither better nor significantly worse than its predecessor. It was once more a series of disjointed sketches, some of which worked better than others. But the lack of structure meant that the whole didn’t fully work as a complete piece. As a political work it’s on the right side, but not really effective. It attacks all the right targets, but you don’t really think that it would convince anyone to change their mind.

There are some good jokes in here, and some which don’t quite work. But there are also some jokes which worked when we first saw them decades ago – most notably, the scene in a sitcom with canned laughter like in Natural Born Killers (1994), and the joke about properly declining Romans Go Home in Latin like in Life of Brian (1979). Repetition and removing the context which made them particularly funny does not make these jokes any more effective.

There is also a slight problem in the condescension of basing your plot on the belief that people are stupid and getting stupider by the minute. This ends up minimizing a problem that is very current in Germany. Justified distrust in the government is leading a fairly significant number of people to march alongside real Nazis. Kling is absolutely right to take on these ideas, but by dismissing them as merely the thoughts of stupid people, he is unable to properly counter them.

And yet for all that, both kangaroo films are a pleasure to watch. Dimitrij Schaad has a schlubby charm as the “Kleinkünstler” (minor artist) Marc-Uwe, and Rosalie Thomas as Maria is clearly out of his league, though you could see them together at a push. You engage with the characters and want the best for them. This means that even while the film drags, you’re interested in where it’s going, and that’s a better offer than most films showing at the moment. A guarded “go see”.

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