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What to Do in Case of Fire Reviews

"Let it burn!" is the short answer to the question posed by the title of this strained German comedy about former radicals-turned-bourgeois bores. Needless to say, THE BIG CHILL it's not. Back in the '80s, the members of a political filmmaking collective called "Group 36" spent their days agitating for social change through "creative anarchy," planning actions like planting a homemade bomb in an abandoned house in Grunewald and capturing it all on film. The bomb failed to go off and the party ended when the Berlin police donned riot gear and evicted the group from their Machnow Street squat. Hotte (Martin Feifel), who lost both legs during the riots, and Tim (Til Schweiger), who takes care of Hotte when not busy shoplifting, have clung to their anti-establishment lifestyle while the others dispersed. Eleven years later, nothing's changed for Hotte and Tim; they're even back in the same old squat. Then the past literally explodes into the present: That homemade bomb in Grunewald unexpectedly explodes, injuring a politician and sparking a full-blown investigation of all left-leaning activist groups. The police raid the Machnow Street squat and confiscate the Group 36 film archives, including the "training film" that shows group members assembling the explosive device. Tim knows it's just a matter of time before the police get to that reel, and he has to warn the other group members. Finding them proves easy enough, but getting them involved in a plan to destroy the film is another story. Maik (Sebastian Blomberg) is now a temperamental, Porsche-driving advertising executive who uses the old anarchy symbol to sell products. Single mother Nele (Nadja Uhl) is trying to raise two little girls; the once Mohawked Terror (Matthias Matschke) is a law-abiding public prosecutor; and Flo (Doris Schretzmayer), once the love of Tim's life, is a hausfrau. Tim's plan involves planting a second bomb — this time in the police station — and suddenly it's 1987 all over again. The notion that bombing buildings is the funniest thing in the world goes entirely unexamined in this startlingly unfunny comedy, and that's far from its only problem. It's hard say what Group 36's agenda was in the first place, some talk about low-rent housing and greedy multinationals notwithstanding. The group's credo, "Live free, stay high," only confirms your worst suspicions about their real motives. And that makes it hard to feel any nostalgia for the good old days or condemn the members who came to their senses and moved on.