By Jeremy Knox | March 15, 2008

There are only three types of foreign comedy “styles” if you think about it. The kind that’s understandable to western audiences, the kind that’s not and the kind that isn’t quite understandable, but still has appeal nonetheless. It’s really the difference between British humor, which we get, French humor, which we don’t, and Japanese humor, which we kind of sort of do… sometimes… maybe.

So what about Eastern-European humor?

Well, let me put it like this….

The best compliment I can give “The District” is that I was immediately reminded of the old “Flying Circus” animated sketches that Terry Gilliam directed, not because “District” looks anything like what Gilliam did, but because it seems to share that straight faced British taste for the absurd. On the one hand District’s is so low key that it’s very nearly a drama at times. On the other hand the satire is razor sharp and top notch. No, it’s not “Family Guy” or “South Park” with their loud blaring s**t-in-your-face jokes. It’s more restrained than that, this has a point to make about what life on the mean streets of Budapest is like for a bunch of late elementary/early high school kids.

When Ricsi Lakatos takes his grandfather’s advice to heart that money plus money equals p***y, he comes up with a plan for him and all of his school friends to become filthy, stinking rich. It’s a simple stratagem which merely requires a small nuclear device borrowed from Osama Bin Laden, killing thousands of dinosaurs by hand and inventing a time machine. All in order to create vast oil reserves under the city. However, when the Oil Barons of the world sense that someone else may be having some of the cake, they decide to retaliate with extreme prejudice.

The problem, of course, is that I’m not Budapestian and watched the entire DVD with the constant nagging feeling that a lot of zingers were going straight over my head. Still, the pacing is good, the humor is evident, the jokes that I did get were solid. However, I could have done without the musical interludes, but only because I had to read the lyrics and I you always kind of lose something in a direct translation of a song. Not to mention that it feels like you’re participating in a solo Karaoke session sober, and that’s never a good experience.

That slight annoyance aside, I liked “The District” quite a bit and think that a lot of western kids, especially city kids, will too. In fact, they’ll find much in common with the Hungarian protagonists despite the language and regional differences. Anyway, there’s really nothing more to say except that this is a tight little comedy and if you’re in the mood to see a uniquely animated cartoon with a little bit of a foreign flavor that drips with a sense of originality you could do a hell of a lot worse.

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