Now That’s What I Call Quite Good: The Three Veterans

the three veterans indexAfter discovering the Czech director Oldrich Lipský thanks to the oddball but very lovable Lemonade Joe I’ve become a huge fan of his, and the manner in which he’s tackled all manner of different genres has been impressive indeed. We’ve been given time travel comedies, a monstrous man eating plant, a film told completely in reverse, and a children’s ghost story, but this doesn’t really fall in to any category other than it’s vaguely a sort of road trip where three former soldiers wander around a country.

This is also the first time I’ve struggled with a film by Lipsky as the first half hour is fairly weak, it has a couple of scenes which are quite funny and the dialogue is in places amusing, but there’s an overall sense of it feeling a little pointless, it’s by no means offensive or bad, just aimless, and it needed a stronger story. All that really happens is thanks to some very tiny dwarfs Pankrac (Rudolf Hrusínský), Servác (Josef Somr), Bimbác (Petr Cepek) are each given a magical items, a hat which can give the owner anything he wants apart from love or money, a pouch with a never ending supply of gold coins, and a small harp which produces any number of human beings of any variety, from soldiers to hairdressers to street cleaners.

Our three leads don’t really do anything that interesting with their magical gifts however, bar creating a horse drawn carriage, making the odd snack and arguing about whether Bimbác should use magic to recreate a battle they once fought in. Fortunately once they visit their unnamed neighbouring country and meet the King (Július Satinský) and his daughter Princess Bosanna (Vida Neuwirthová) it becomes a solidly entertaining movie as they have their magical items stolen from them and the revenge they take involves the world’s longest nose.

It almost feels like a children’s film at times, but it’s a children’s film about three old men wandering around occasionally getting in to scrapes and lusting after a woman who steals from them, and who one of them then calls a bitch. Some have suggested it works as a satire of the history of East European conflicts, but my research couldn’t fill me in any further on that extent, though how it portrays the neighbouring countries is clearly meant to be humourous, with a fair dose of affectionate teasing of these places, while an anti-war message at the end isn’t exactly subtle it does at least provide a moral.

When it comes to humour the first half feels largely limp, but at least in the second half of the movie there’s some very strong slapstick, especially when the three veterans are initially running away from the King and Princess and it feels like a Carry On movie written by one of the Monty Python team. The sequence with the incredibly long nose is sublime too, even if it does occasionally look like the world’s largest ever penis, and there’s plenty of laugh out loud moments as it visits a number of different countries and gets in to scrapes on its adventures.

Because the first half is fairly uneventful it isn’t a film that I can wholeheartedly recommend, unlike any of the other Lipsky movies I’ve reviewed so far. Its three leads are amiable enough but they’re not the most memorable characters, and given that they could have done anything with their magical abilities it feels odd that they do so little. At least the second half is superb and it boosted the film in my esteem a great deal, but if it is something you seek out be prepared for a fair old wait until the movie finally becomes enjoyable.

★★★

Alex Finch.
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