Elyas M'Barek became an overnight superstar in 2013 starring in "Fack Ju Göthe." Now Bora Dagtekin's riotous comedy returns for a sequel, albeit with the same comedic recipe.
The scene of the crime: A picture-perfect Thai beach. Two pubescent schoolboys dressed in pink bikinis are sitting on the back of two elephants, babbling and singing - totally inebriated. Their teacher Zeki Müller (played by Elyas M'Barek), rolls his eyes to heaven...not again!
Indeed, "Fack Ju Göthe" - the smash hit, high school comedy of 2013 from director Bora Dagtekin - is back for round two. The original film won over film-goers worldwide, telling the hilarious story of small-time criminal Zeki Müller, who suddenly finds himself a high school teacher at the Goethe School - hence the misspelt title.
The cast virtually remains intact from the first installment, and little has changed in terms of the two leads. The chemistry teacher Ingrid Leimbach-Knorr (portrayed by Uschi Glas) almost blows herself up after an attack by the pupils.
And the part-time crook, Müller, is still more than capable of fighting back against his loose cast of students, who he lovingly refers to as "puberty pensioners."#
School of hard knocks
Müller speaks the language of the school bullies, because once he was one of them himself - and this, in a nutshell, is the basic hook of the film. Mrs. Gerster, director of the Goethe School (played by Katja Riemann) appreciates Müller's qualities: "This clearly demonstrates what can become of a problematic pupil when he attends the right school," she says. And, as such, she falsifies the documents the one-time criminal needs to remain a teacher at the school.
Nevertheless, Zeki Müller is determined to get out: getting up at the crack fo dawn is not his cup of tea, he hates correcting paperwork...and who the hell is Faust? He has big plans to return to his earlier life of minor crime. However, he is doomed to failure at the hands of a bunch of brattish teenagers.
The film kicks off in Thailand, where some diamonds have found their way hidden in the belly of the school mascot: a stuffed toy. In order to recover the loot, Müller decides without further ado to accompany his students on the international school trip - together with his wife "Lisi" Schnabelstedt (Karoline Herfurth). School director Gerster plans to win over a Thai partner school with the mascot, hoping it will boost her reputation at the education ministry.
Professionals of incompetence
Things naturally spiral into absurdity: The class smuggles a hand grenade in the hand luggage of the super-correct Mrs.Schnabelstedt. She's naturally caught and thus forbidden from traveling onto Thailand, leaving Müller alone to bare responsibility for the students.
The subsequent 120 minutes document a descent into mayhem, as Zeki tries to keep his students in order (and alive) to a backdrop of "partying, boozing, anarchy" - the students' motto. During a night walk, pupil Zeynep (Gizem Emre) enquires of his teacher: "Are there any killers out there?" Zeki's wry response: "I hope."
Müller himself struggles for survival against all odds - including speedboat explosions, monkey attacks and raging waterfalls, all the time trying to reclaim his wayward diamonds and his pride as a criminal.
What will endear this film to so many once again are its LOL moments, including the interschool rivalry between the ramshackle Goethe School and the elitist Schiller School.
Diamond in the rough
But there are also moments of reflection, including when the bullies discover (in memory of the tsunami disaster in Thailand) a ship hanging in a palm tree at dizzying heights - a sentimental moment in an otherwise very non-sentimental film.
And while "Fack Ju Göthe 2" is clearly not able to solve Germany's education equity issues or the privileged-poor divide, the film at least broaches reality in a hilarious way.
To the super-chaotic class 10b, Zeki is a super-teacher, even though - or perhaps because - he does not really want to be one. He increasingly turns into some sort of real-life savior - an example of the "real world."
What is unforgivable, however, is the blatant product placement throughout the film. A gang of Thai drop-outs who had lost their parents during the tsunami assist Zeki while diving to recover his diamonds. As a reward, they ask for fast food coupons - as though they had no other worries. Later on, they all sit happily together on the beach at "McDive."
But what the heck: If you enjoyed "Fack Ju Göthe" the first time around you are likely to enjoy its sequel as well. Whether you attended the rough-edged Goethe School or the privileged Schiller School, this film is for you.