I have a confession to make. Lately, I have become addicted to lame Czech raunchy comedies. There are dozens on Netflix right now and I have the strange urge to crack through every single one of them, even though I know they will be mostly terrible. I don’t know why this craving has emerged, but I’m currently taking heavy doses of Ingmar Bergman and Carl Theodor Dreyer to help overcome this nasty affliction…
Next up is Bikers from Martin Kopp (3Grapes), a film that owes a vague debt to movies like American Pie and Euro Trip. As far as modern Czech comedies go, it isn’t anywhere near as bad as Spindl, a film so dispiriting that it might make you take a vow of celibacy and go live on top of a mountain somewhere, well away from other members of the human race.
We first meet Patrik (Tomás Matonoha), an energetic divorcee exasperated by his teenage son David (Jan Komínek) who would rather sit around in a darkened room playing fantasy RPGs instead of wanking himself silly to all the free porn online. In an attempt to cure the boy, he coerces his attractive younger girlfriend Tereza (Hana Vagnerová) to take David on a 200km bike ride to get some air in his lungs and maybe talk to real girls in real-world scenarios. Tereza, a mountain bike enthusiast who dreams of pulling off gnarly stunts like the kids at the local cycle track, reluctantly agrees.
Also along for the ride is David’s hated stepbrother Jachym (Adam Mišík), another pale-faced shut-in who lives with David’s relentless psychiatrist mother and her timid new husband, who is terrified of her. Not exactly relishing the prospect of hanging out with his step-sibling, Jachym asks his best friend Saša along (Vojtěch Machuta), who supports his family by posing as a gay fashion guru on Youtube.
Once agreed on the trip, they head off to South Bohemia for a long cycle ride across the typically gorgeous Czech landscape. Not that the boys notice, however – they are too busy trying to get a wifi signal, and neither the glorious Bohemian nature nor the sight of Tereza’s backside in tight cycling shorts is enough to rouse attention from their mobile phones…
They find more company on the trail when they meet Roman Záhorský (Pavel Nečas), an over-zealous cycle instructor in charge of four young female speedskaters out for a bit of summer training. Záhorský instantly zooms in on Tereza with his lecherous chat-up technique. Much to her dismay, they are all staying at the same campsite.
The four girls poke fun at the boys but are not unfriendly – something that our nerds don’t notice as they are too busy having meltdowns about running out of battery on their phones. Saša shows the most interest at first, while David and Jachym are too wrapped up in their online worlds to barely say hello. Jachym then persuades Saša to carry on with his ruse to help get them in with the girls, reasoning that they won’t see him as a threat if they think he is gay.
After an obligatory skinny-dipping scene, the boys start paying attention to the young women and, in turn, the beauty of nature around them, exhibiting signs of offline mating urges. Meanwhile, Tereza continues fending off the unwelcome attention of Záhorský.
It is around the halfway point that the already thin screenplay runs out of material, and we start cutting back to Patrik and the two other dads to see what they are up to. Turns out that Patrik has a fetish for women wearing “cute little hats” and their hair in a bun, while Saša’s old man is a massive radball fan (a cross between indoor football and cycling). These two niche passions will eventually meet, creating an embarrassing situation for Patrik.
Bikers is so lightweight that, if it popped a wheelie, it could pass in front of the moon like the kids in ET: The Extra-Terrestrial before floating away into the stratosphere. Without any real stakes or much of a plot, it’s a raunchy comedy that is low on raunch and laughs. It tries to find something relevant to say about kids and their social media personas while also taking a rather Luddite attitude towards anything online. In the fine tradition of many US teen comedies, the younger characters are played by actors in their early-mid twenties, and it is one of the few Czech films I’ve seen so far that gives a notable speaking role to a black actor.
Esther Lubadika, the recent finalist of Česko Slovenská SuperStar, plays Irča, one of the more clearly defined of the four female protagonists, and her budding romance with Saša is probably the most engaging of the film’s subplots. Unfortunately, the screenplay has a bit of a tin-ear for both homosexuality and people of different ethnicities, resulting in some crass misunderstandings about why a guy’s butt hurts so much, and a few fantasy sequences where Irča is portrayed as a fierce African warrior-woman.
Overall, the performances are likeable enough. Vagnerová is appealing as the nominal star, set up as a sex object for the boys to ogle but coming across as slightly neurotic and square. Of the young guys, Machuta as Saša is the most well-balanced of the trio, a likeable and forthcoming person cringing at the difficulties his online personality cause in real life.
Otherwise, as the film trundles towards its predictable conclusion, most of the laughs come from Nečas as Záhorský, who is having a good time playing the middle-aged lothario. He is a character that people will either love or hate, constantly ranting about “lactation” to his trainees while sneaking around sniffing their socks and giving himself a semi-erection before hitting on Tereza. He provides at least 90% of the film’s energy. While he is a cartoon character he’s not that much of an exaggeration – if you’ve spent any time cycling or doing any other outdoor activity in the Czech Republic, you will know exactly who this overly-macho guy with his aggressive bonhomie is.
Bikers is amiable enough and comes across as well-intentioned, trying hard to be entertaining. Whether it actually entertains you or not is a different matter. However, if you are like me, it might inspire you to get on your bike and explore the Czech countryside, rather than sitting around watching third-rate movies on Netflix.
Bikers (Bajkeři) is showing on Czech Netflix at the time of writing. This article is a slightly amended version of the one first published by the Prague Daily Monitor.