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Film / The Polka King

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The Polka King is a Based on a True Story biographical comedy starring Jack Black as Jan Lewan, a proud Polish-American polka band leader who was arrested in 2004 for running a Ponzi Scheme. It also features Jenny Slate as Jan's wife Marla and Jason Schwartzman as the band's lead clarinetist.

The Polka King was first shown at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and then released on Netflix in January of 2018.


Tropes associated with this work:

  • Anti-Villain: Jan is a charming, friendly guy who works hard and loves his family dearly. He is also, technically, committing financial fraud on a multimillion-dollar scale.
  • Benevolent Boss: Jan is very friendly and encouraging to the members of his band.
  • The Charmer: Jan, which works to his advantage as both a performer and semi-inadvertent con artist. (Until it doesn't.)
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Justified in that the major characters are Polish-Americans.
  • Deconstruction: Of "fake it 'til you make it" optimism.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Barb may dislike her son-in-law Jan and spends most of her screen time suspicious of him, but when two of the investors arrive after Jan is put in jail, gleeful that Jan got shivved in the neck by his crazy cellmate and say that it's a shame the guy didn't finished the job, Barb rages at them and splatters eggs all over their car while yelling that it's their fault this happened as well by giving Jan the money, which Jan takes as her defending him.
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  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Jan's sequined bandleader outfits.
  • First Law of Tragicomedies: Starts light-hearted, but the humor goes down when consequences start to kick in.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: Jan believes and practices it, and even gets a musical number to that effect.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Marla Lewan's mother Barb is constantly ragging on the rest of the family and really has it in for Jan and his ambitions and constantly questions his financial activities. In context, she is right and even sympathetic, but she still comes off pretty brusque.
  • Polka Dork: Averted. Although Jan has some Adorkable qualities, polka is a popular genre within the milieu of the film and nobody is made fun of for liking it.
  • Ponzi Scheme: Jan gets the bright idea to raise money via "investments" from his adoring fans. Unfortunately, the band and his other businesses aren't bringing in enough money to repay the investments plus the interest rates he's offering - but as long as he keeps getting new investors and people don't all decide to cash out at the same time, it works.

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