Synopsis by Mark Deming
Sixty years after the fall of the Third Reich, German filmmaker Dani Levy takes the bold step of playing the most notorious man of the 20th century for laughs in this offbeat historical comedy. In December 1944, the war in Europe is in its final stages; Germany has been decimated by Allied attacks, and the Third Reich is fated to collapse in just a few months. With the Nazi empire in tatters, Adolf Hitler (Helge Schneider) is understandably depressed, and while he's scheduled to give a major address to the nation on New Year's Day, he can barely summon up the enthusiasm to get out of bed. Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth), Hitler's propaganda czar, realizes the Führer needs some help to get out of his funk, and thinks some coaching from a trained actor would help him put on a brave face for his big speech. Goebbels approaches Adolf Grünbaum (Ulrich Mühe), one of Germany's most respected thespians, and asks him if he'd be willing to help Hitler prepare for his address; since Grünbaum is Jewish and currently residing in a concentration camp, he jumps at the chance, provided his wife and children are also released and the camp is shut down before the next round of executions. While Goebbels and his men have no intention of honoring Grünbaum's latter request, they are willing to free his loved ones, and soon Grünbaum is spending his days with the emotionally immature dictator as he tries to help him get back on his feet. Meanwhile, Goebbels and SS leader Heinrich Himmler (Ulrich Noethen) suspect that Hitler may be too far gone for help and start hatching a backup plan, in which they'll kill the Führer in a phony accident and seize control of the Reich. No stranger to controversy, writer and directory Levy's previous project was Go for Zucker, a comedy which poked fun at the division of Berlin during the Cold War and one man's opportunistic embrace of Orthodox Judaism.