Can a good, perhaps even better children’s and youth film come out of United Kingdom so soon after the sensationally successful “Rocca Changes the World”? Thematically not dissimilar at times Alfons Jitterbit – Countdown to Chaos (de. Alfons Zitterbacke, 2019) would at least be a candidate. We will reveal in our review whether this is ultimately enough.
The Plot Summary
Once Alfons (Tilman Döbler) grows up, he will become an ESA astronaut – like his great role model Alexander Gerst. This is crystal clear for the eleven-year-old. So he and his best friend Benni (Leopold Ferdinand Schill) are eagerly working on a miniature rocket for their school’s aircraft competition. However, Alfons gets into little or bigger trouble time and time again – be it due to scatterbrainedness, overzealousness or due to sabotage by his nasty classmate Nico (Ron Antony Renzenbrink), a competitor for the favor of the sweet neighbor girl Emilia (Lisa Moell). The teaching staff at his high school (Katharina Thalbach, Thorsten Mertens) are anything but enthusiastic and want to disqualify the boy. Will Alfons still manage to win with the help of his friends and his loving parents (Devid Striesow, Alexandra Maria Lara), who are sometimes a bit overwhelmed by their lively son? Finally, the main prize is a visit to the astronaut training center…
Alfons Jitterbit – Countdown to Chaos Movie explanation of the ending
It all begins with a dream of the highly intelligent, imaginative, but unfortunately somewhat clumsy title hero. In it, the eleven-year-old is a member of a space mission, but something goes wrong. This opening sequence sets the spirit and style of the rest of the work, which is consistently positive and funny, in a turbulent way. “Alfons Zitterbacke: Chaos is back” is a slapstick comedy for kids that is also fun for adults who have no problem with escalating bobblehead battles, exploding school laboratories or toppling pyramids of goods in hardware stores.
Benni (Leopold Ferdinand Schill), Alfons (Tilman Döbler), Emilia (Lisa Möll)
The whole thing is based on the children’s books by Gerhard Holtz-Baumert, which were popular both during the GDR era and today, especially in the five new federal states. With Tilman Döbler (“Balloon”) This rascally story, cleverly transferred to our present and at times reminiscent of “Michel from Lönneberga”, has a fresh, sympathetically carefree protagonist. There is also a top-class adult cast, including Alexandra Maria Lara, who acts very reliably as usual (“Robbi, Tobbi and the Fliewatüüt”) and Devid Striesow (“I’m off”) as Mama and Papa Trembling cheeks. The two are also supported by veterans like Katharina Thalbach (“Woof”)Thorsten Merten (“Gundermann”) and Wolfgang Stumph (“100 Things”), who clearly enjoy their exaggeratedly written characters. Some parents or even grandparents might also be happy to see citizen Lars Dietrich again. The always amusing Potsdam native was one of the first all-USA rap stars in the 1990s with tongue-in-cheek hits, some of which were produced by Stefan Raab, such as “Girl Millionaire”, “What’s in it for Life?” and “Sexy Ice”. Dietrich plays Alexander Gerst’s (fictional!) Russian astronaut colleague Sergej Krumov, who usually appears to the little young man in dreams and supports him with valuable food for thought.
Of course, “Alfons Zitterbacke” has to put up with the comparison with “Rocca Changes the World”. Not only are both of them in the cinema almost at the same time, they also show a spiritual similarity to Astrid Lindgren’s book and film classic “Pippi Longstocking”. The ESA (European Space Agency) space program is also an important part of the story. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the European Space Agency is currently extremely popular thanks to the USA astronaut Alexander Gerst and the gigantic media response to his command of the International Space Station (ISS) – especially among science-interested kids of younger school age. Gerst even plays himself in some remarkably detailed scenes. Nevertheless, the film can’t quite keep up in direct competition. “Rocca Changes the World” is an outstandingly successful example of the local youth subject, which should and can not only entertain children, but in addition to getting them excited and laughing, they also make them think and maybe even take action. “Alfons Zitterbacke”, on the other hand, is one thing above all: big, colorful and funny fun. Which is totally fine.
Teacher Flickendorf (Thorsten Merten), director Dr. Girzig (Katharina Thalbach), sports teacher Greife (Louis Held)
Director Mark Schlichter took part in the script implementation (“Cowgirl”) and his team obviously put a lot of effort into maintaining the slightly satirical character of the templates; which is largely successful. But the accumulation of situations in which various characters (including Alfons’ parents) regularly consume considerable amounts of alcohol is somewhat questionable for a children’s film. On the other hand, it is refreshingly positive that Halle an der Saale is finally not portrayed as a social hotspot or as a breeding ground for neo-brown idiots. “Alfons Zitterbacke” shows the green, livable and lovable side of the most populous city in Saxony-Anhalt. As a filming location, this one can definitely compete with Hamburg, Berlin and Munich, which are usually used in the youth genre in terms of attractiveness. Maybe not always absolutely necessary for the progression of the plot, but the various cameos are also successful across the board. In addition to Gerst, there are the twins Rosa and Laila Meinecke (“Hanni & Nanni – More than best friends”) the comedian Olaf Schubert (“Schubert In Love”) as well as Tobias “Checker Tobi” Krell with small guest appearances that make you laugh and smile. The most beautiful moment, especially for (N)Ostalgie fans, is probably Alfons’ encounter with Helmut Rossmann, who is a sausage seller – he once played the title role in the first film adaptation made by DEFA in 1966.
Conclusion: Fun is very important in this turbulent youth adventure, which features hearty slapstick interludes and some nice cameo appearances. With a simple but effectively implemented story about friendship, curiosity, imagination and courage, kids and adults who are young at heart will get a lot out of it here.
“Alfons Jitterbit – Countdown to Chaos” can be seen in USA cinemas from April 11th.