Satire needs to say something to work. The best of the genre is a fiery takedown of political and social ills imbued with deep anger and befuddlement. “Look Who’s Back” has moments of this kind of spirit, but falls back on the absurdity of its premise when those moments fade. It’s a shame, too. Oliver Masucci plays a mean Hitler, one who, surprisingly, is hard to hate. Sure, he’s Hitler, but his time has passed. Or has it?
Ostensibly, “Look Who’s Back” sets out to answer that question. Without explanation, Hitler wakes up in modern-day Berlin, stumbling around the city trying to get his bearings. It’s when he reads the newspaper that he learns how things worked out. The country has changed and he doesn’t know how to cope. He catches the eye of a struggling television host named Fabian (Fabian Busch) who decides to produce a documentary about him. The project takes him across Germany, where he talks to people about their problems and promises to fix them.
In an all-too-obvious turn, Hitler’s time has not passed. Nazi sympathies still have a hold on some of the German population, and the Führer works his way back to the top. There’s novelty in watching his rise because it’s easy for the most part, but that’s part of the movie’s problem. Hitler wins people over and secures a new place in Germany’s history, but so what? Where’s the satirical bite, the reason to care? “Look Who’s Back” has neither.
The title is fittingly passive with this in mind. As a viewer, you won’t be compelled to do more than look. Look how confused Hitler is. He thinks the Green Party is the same as his Blood and Soil campaign, isn’t that hilarious? To be fair, that’s a funnier part of the movie, but director David Wnendt ignores its overall significance in favor of some belly laughs.
If it weren’t for Masucci’s performance, there’d be little to laugh at. His Hitler is an alienated layabout, too distant from our world to make a mark without the help of a newsstand owner and a young filmmaker. The moments where his privilege boils over into a tirade about German purity are gold, even though they’re equally horrific.
But even he can’t help a vacuous movie. Watching it feels as hollow as a visit to 4chan. It has all the edge and drive of a movie with something to say, but ends up saying little. Instead, it puts its protagonist front-and-center like a mannequin in the hopes that he’ll carry it all. Masucci is certainly up to the task. It’s just a shame his movie isn’t, too.