Family Jewels, The

Director: Robert Schwentke

2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 88 mins.

Director Robert Schwentke’s second feature (after last year’s Tattoo) is a delightfully offbeat black comedy about a guy who first loses a testicle to cancer and then has a ball trying to steal it back from the hospital’s pathology lab. Martin (Wotan Wilke Mahring), who has already had one testicle removed, returns to a Berlin hospital for chemotherapy treatment. He quickly makes friends with three fellow patients: the very eccentric Harry (Antoine Monot Jr.) and Nickel (Janek Rieke) and the beautiful Susanne (Julia Hummer). Harry ends up accepting a crazy bet to retrieve his cancerous testis from the lab. This risky mission involves getting past the lab’s cadaverous janitor, whose catchphrase is ‘The only way you get past me is on a gurney.’ On paper, the movie may sound like a cross between a gross-out comedy and the Paddy Chayefsky-scripted The Hospital (1971). In practice, it plays as a slightly spacey black comedy that morphs, in its darker second act, into a touching tale of people making the best of their limited time left.

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