A brightly colored pop musical based on the songs of Schlager grandee Udo Jürgens – all of this has already been on stage. Now comes I’ve Never Been to New York also on the big screen and requires the desire to get involved in this artificial candy world. But whoever does this will be rewarded handsomely. We reveal more about this in our review.
Pasquale Aleardi impresses with his performance of “Greek Wine”.
The plot summary
For Lisa Wartberg (Heike Makatsch), a successful television presenter and single, her show comes first. But then her mother Maria (Katharina Thalbach) loses her memory after an accident, is hospitalized and can only remember one thing: she has never been to New York! On a spur of the moment, Maria flees and smuggles herself aboard a luxurious cruise ship as a stowaway. Together with her make-up artist Fred (Michael Ostrowski), Lisa sets out to search for her mother and actually tracks her down on the “MS Maximiliane”. But before the two can get Maria off board again, the ocean liner sets off and the three find themselves on an involuntary journey across the Atlantic. Lisa meets Axel Staudach (Moritz Bleibtreu) and his son Florian (Marlon Schramm) on board. Axel is not Lisa’s type at all, but through a series of unfortunate mishaps the two eventually become closer… Mother Maria meets dancer Otto (Uwe Ochsenknecht), who claims to have a shared past with her – which Maria of course cannot verify due to her lack of memory can. And Fred falls head over heels in love with the Greek on-board magician Costa (Pasquale Aleardi). This is how the turbulent ship journey takes place – with repeated finding and losing of love and lots of surprises – to New York.
I’ve Never Been to New York Movie Meaning & ending
The relationship between the musical films “Mamma Mia!” and “I’ve Never Been to New York” is obvious. Both productions are based on well-known stage shows, one peppered with songs by the Swedish cult band ABBA, the other interspersed with hit pop numbers by the late grand seigneur Udo Jürgens. Both musicals had their German premiere in the Hanseatic city of Hamburg and have similar themes: Both stories are about the relationship between mother and daughter, including an unresolved question of paternity. For the script for “Mamma Mia!”, the renowned playwright Catherine Johnson worked with some of the members of the now disbanded band itself, and also worked on “I’ve Never Been to New York,” originally written by the Viennese director and author Gabriel Barylli Udo Jürgens is actively involved. “Mamma Mia” became a mega hit eleven years ago – even a sequel followed ten years later. In the case of “I’ve never been in New York”, the target group is of course automatically less internationally oriented – simply due to the fact that the songs and the production are German. Nevertheless, director Philipp Stölzl (“The Medicus”) has used the successful ingredients of “Mamma Mia!” film director Phyllida Lloyd and is doing his incredibly entertaining comedy musical a disservice. If you get involved, you might experience the feel-good experience of autumn cinema!
TV presenter Lisa Wartberg (Heike Makatsch) is on the verge of burnout.
There’s nothing real about “I’ve Never Been to New York.” That this is part of the concept becomes clear after ten minutes at the latest, when you see in the background of the Hamburg harbor, which is recreated with artificial film sets, that even the sky and horizon were painted by hand instead of created with computer tricks. There are no green screens or CGI effects here. Only when you see the ship a few times from afar on the open sea or passing the New York skyline do you realize that there has been a trick here. Instead, you rely on stage equipment like you would find in the theater; And just as a homage to the original, this type of production is extremely charming, although definitely not for everyone. Everything here is brightly colored – from the cake buffet to the furnishings of the individual ship cabins to the actors’ costumes. And the actors themselves also act in a very affected way (at least at the beginning), which emphasizes the classic musical character even when there is no singing at all. Of course, at this point you can already ask the question to what extent it even makes sense to orient yourself so closely to the stage musical if you don’t know how to use the film medium for your own benefit. But Philipp Stölzl and his team have a very precise feel for the interplay between homage and new impulses – and last but not least, when you go to the cinema to see “I’ve Never Been in New York”, you are no longer dependent on where the show is currently running. But with cinemas as a venue, you have many more opportunities to watch the story (again) – after all, the musical itself can now boast over six million visitors in this country.
But as already mentioned, “I’ve Never Been to New York” is not just filmed theater. Cameraman Thomas W. Kiennast (“3 Days in Quiberon”) whirls through the corridors with his camera and dances around his singing protagonists, always letting himself be guided by the mood conveyed by the songs. If he dresses ballads or quieter up-tempo numbers (“Greek Wine”, “Illusions”…) in a sometimes rather dim, dreamy light and focuses more on the faces of the singers, he turns the moody box office hits like “But please with cream” or “Thank you for the flowers” and let yourself be carried away by the energy of the ensemble – if necessary with split screens and other visual gimmicks. The dynamic of the cast is quickly transferred to the audience, because with the very first number, in which Heike Makatsch in the role of TV presenter Lisa Wartberg orders her entourage around to “Thank you for the flowers”, Philipp Stölzl sets the tonal tone Foundation stone. The authors always place the Udo Jürgens songs, some of which have been textually modified and some of which have been adopted one-to-one, when the content fits (and of course based on the stage original); and as befits a musical, there is generally more singing than speaking, as the content of the songs further drives the story forward. And of course it’s an advantage to know Udo Jürgens’ music. A total of 21 of his songs are used in “I’ve Never Been to New York,” some of which are only played briefly – including the title track itself; a small downer.
On the other hand, there is an outstandingly committed ensemble playing across the board, of which the male actors in particular stand out vocally. Pasquale Aleardi (“Honey in the head”) delivers by far the best performance in the film with his performance of “Greek Wine” (it’s a shame that this takes place in the first third of the film); He has both the strongest voice and the best song arrangement on his side. But also Moritz Bleibtreu (“Only God can Judge Me”) and Uwe Ochsenknecht (“Welcome to the Hartmanns”) convince with their voices and tact in both fast and calmer, emotional numbers, but above all because in their performances they fully engage with the film as a constructed, likeable, feel-good romance with many rough edges. This is what Heike Makatsch means (“Benjamin the Elephant”) and above all Katharina Thalbach (“100 Things”) a little too good at the beginning. The emphasis on affectation in their acting is not good for their characters, who are already on the verge of caricature. Only over time do they both find the right balance between theatricality and down-to-earthness. Nevertheless, “I’ve Never Been to New York” still remains a musical fairy tale in the end. And his energy and good mood is contagious even if you can occasionally be bothered by minor acting inaccuracies. You just have to get involved in this celebrated extravagance. But both the trailer and your own experiences with films like “Mamma Mia!” will help you…
Conclusion: The stage musical based on the songs by Udo Jürgens has been brilliantly transferred to the screen – anyone who can get involved in this brightly colored, feel-good surprise package will get it the feel-good film of the fall.
“I’ve Never Been to New York” can be seen in USA cinemas from October 17th.