Wednesday, December 26, 2012
I have no idea why Timur Bekmambetov wanted to associate himself with Yolki, or Six Degrees of Celebration as it was called in wide release. It seems Russian producers were hoping to recreate the magic of The Irony of Fate, by inviting Timur and other Russian directors to paste together a set of vignettes loosely held together by a little girl's lie that the President is her long lost father, which can be made true if Medvedev (the President at the time) utters the code words, Na Deda Moroza nadeisia, a sam ne ploshai!, at the fateful hour. In order to achieve this "miracle," a boy sets in motion a chain of events which he hopes will break the six degrees of separation between these lowly orphans and the President.
As Beach Gray writes in this review, Bekmambetov has a weakness for Hollywood-style movies. At his best, he can deliver in grand style, but here he serves up a sticky sweet pastry loaded with familiar faces (to Russian viewers anyway) that pretty much ends up being pie in the face. Granted, there are some fun moments, but you have to wonder what the point of all these sugary sentiments is other than to reaffirm that everything is fine in Russia.
What made The Irony of Fate work is that it was a simple story told in a beautifully eloquent style, pitch perfect for the holidays. Here was a couple that managed to transcend the sameness of Soviet life much like the young couple in O Henry's classic The Gift of the Magi, without being overly sentimental. As a result, it had the power to reach across cultural lines.
Yolki is so overtly Russian in all its stereotypes without really making much humor out of them. It is much more fun to watch Ivan Urgant and Sergei Svetlakov in their comedy programs than it is in this insipid tale, as they are two of the funniest men in Russia. They seemed to be used mainly to draw viewers to the lavish production, as they play relatively minor roles in a film diabetics should be warned not to watch.