- By Talis Saule Archdeacon
LATVIAN LUNACY: Sadly, not even a big budget could save this home-grown production from degenerating into goofiness.
Director: Alexander Hahn
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I went to see "Midsummer Madness." This relatively big-budget Latvian movie is part comedy, part adventure story and part promotional video. It follows six unconnected plot lines concerning the crazy antics of foreigners and locals during Latvia's biggest holiday, Janu Nakts (St. John's Night).
While the idea behind the film holds real potential, the director tries to squeeze too many different themes into one movie to the detriment of them all. Moreover, many of the comedic scenes are goofy and random 's slapstick to the point of idiocy. The movie is interrupted three or four times by the unexplained appearance of a poorly animated kangaroo.
The main storyline follows an American named Kurt who comes to Riga in search of his long-lost half sister. To satisfy his father's dying wish, he travels around Latvia with a world-wise cab driver named Oskars trying to track the girl down.
The second plot line concerns a French widow who arrives in Riga to spread the ashes of her late husband over the Hill of Crosses. Upon learning that the Hill of Crosses is actually in Lithuania, she travels south with a local Latvian in a funeral van.
In a separate story, a promiscuous young Russian/Latvian girl from the countryside brings home her new lover, a stereotypical Japanese man, for a little bit of bondage fun in an old tool shed on Midsummer Night.
Another plot line follows a sleazy Russian man trying to put together a huge deal with two equally sleazy drug lords from Western Europe. The two drug lords are reluctant to sign the deal, but more than happy to chase beautiful Latvian women. The story becomes a bit more complicated when one of the visitors overdoses on magic mushrooms and loses his mind.
The movie also details the adventures of two moronic Russian rednecks who unsuccessfully try to steal oil from a giant pipeline running through the forest. This plotline might be difficult to follow for those who don't speak Russian or Latvian.
The final storyline is about two British firefighters who come to Riga to show solidarity with their Latvian counterparts. The visiting firefighters go off into the forest in search of the fabled fern blossom, and end up discovering they are gay.
Giving this movie a bad rating feels like telling a much-loved grandmother that I hate her cooking, but I am really left with no choice.
Now showing in Latvia.
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