Now That’s What I Call Quite Good: Dr. Plonk

dr plonk indexBack in 2012 the French film The Artist won plaudits for being a modern silent film, but it wasn’t by any means the only one made in the 21st century and oddly enough both feature a very cute small dog too. It’s one of the few things they do have in common though as this is a time travel comedy set in 1907 where our hero Dr Plonk (Nigel Lunghi) creates an equation which suggests the world will end in just over one hundred year’s time, so he builds a time machine to see if that’s true or not.

Dr Plonk’s machine is quite the oddity, a wind up machine which looks simplistic indeed where a coffin shaped box is the only part which travels to and from the future and requires someone in 1907 to control it. Initially Dr Plonk asks his assistant Paulus (Paul Blackwell) to keep an eye on the machine, but as he’s deaf he fails to notice that the bell that rings alerting him to the fact that Dr Plonk wishes to return leading to far too many near death experiences for Plonk’s liking.

Soon Dr Plonk’s wife (Babe and Babe: Pig In The City star Magda Szubanski) is brought in to help, and Plonk and Paulus travel to 2008 to see if the world has ended. Which it hasn’t, but Plonk and Paulus have to cope with the insanity of the modern world, avoid being mown down by a train and also avoid the police, who thanks to Dr Plonk wanting to speak to the prime minister to warn him about the end of the world wish to arrest him after he is accused of being a terrorist.

The first half hour is filled with lots of strong slapstick, there’s a subplot involving Paulus going to the park with Dr Plonk’s dog and hitting on a woman, and it doesn’t really have any reason to be part of the film, but it’s funny enough that I’m not complaining. The dog is used in a number of amusing ways and both Paulus and Esme lark about to amusing effect in a good few scenes while Plonk is off in the future.

It does lose its way a little around the forty minute mark and Plonk’s antics in the future aren’t always that exciting, which prevents it from receiving Cult Classic status. But the final third is a real return to form, and features the kind of over the top stunts that Buster Keaton would be impressed by, and though the ending isn’t exactly the happiest it is oddly fitting and largely very funny too. Directed by Australian Rolf de Heer of Bad Boy Bubby fame, this is almost the opposite to that film, a very simple slapstick comedy, but it’s one which is just as memorable.

★★★1/2

Alex Finch.
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