Train of Life
It may be time that we stopped describing movies like Life Is Beautiful, Jakob the Liar, and the cringe-worthy new French picture Train of Life as ”Holocaust comedies.” They’re really Holocaust fantasies: They wheel the Nazi terror before us and then magically wave it away. Train of Life isn’t as tedious as Jakob the Liar (where Robin Williams paraded around in his schmattes as if they were the Pope’s robes), but, if anything, it’s even more insufferable. Set in 1941, it follows a village of Eastern European Jews who launch a plan to evade the Nazis by getting hold of a train and faking their own deportation. The amazing thing is, they bring it off with a bluster and enthusiasm that would shame Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.
Except that this is shtetl-shtick bluster: Every raucous peasant dance is interspersed with a theatrically pained moan to heaven. A few of the Jews have to pose as Nazis, and the scenes where they outwit the bumbling Third Reich soldiers are so awkward and unbelievable that I ended up wishing Mel Brooks and Jerry Lewis would just team up and make the Holocaust comedy to end all Holocaust comedies: Springtime for the Day Hitler Cried. D