Emil And The Detectives

This 2001 German feature is the fourth adaptation of Erich Kastner’s 1928 novel, about a 12-year-old boy who gets robbed en route to Berlin and enlists a team of street kids (the detectives of the title) to recover his money. I haven’t seen the celebrated first version, released in Germany in 1931, though I suspect its time and place are more hospitable to the tale’s collectivist feeling (the plot has some interesting parallels to Fritz Lang’s M). This version favors action and sight gags over characters or milieu, and it updates the story to include skateboarding, hip-hop, and a different family setup for the young hero. It’s a pretty good kids’ movie, nothing more. In German with subtitles. 111 min. (JR)

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