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Yes Nurse! No Nurse!

(2004) ** 1/2 Unrated
104 min. Regent Entertainment. Director: Pieter Kramer. Cast: Loes Luca, Paul Kooij, Paul DeLeeuw, Tjitske Reidinga, Waldemar Torenstra.

If the same old Hollywood pablum isn't doing it for you, you might want to consider an appointment with Nurse Klivia. The beloved leading lady of a Dutch musical sitcom from the '60s (you heard me), Nurse Klivia plays den mother to a cast of eccentrics while promoting a simple message: be nice. Despite her goodwill, Klivia finds herself the ongoing target of a hectoring, grimacing Scrooge named Mr. Boordevol. Can Klivia and her patient-friends convince Boordevol to spare the Rest Home? It's a musical question in Yes Nurse! No Nurse!.

The wildly successful Dutch TV series is lost to time, since all tapes were destroyed once the series outlived its usefulness. The characters lived on in the hearts of fans and in a stage revival akin to America's live Brady Bunch stage show, which also led to a feature film remake. Director Pieter Kramer's version tweaks the characters and undoubtedly enhances (if not creates) the gay sensibility apparent in some of the characters and the campy, candy-colored design. From another perspective, Yes Nurse! No Nurse! retains the broadly played style of children's entertainment. Though some parents might object to the gay old time had by the young lads of the Travel Society, there's nothing here which wouldn't sail over the heads of kids, methinks.

Perhaps it's all in the translation, but Yes Nurse! No Nurse! makes only a so-so musical. The songs rarely advance the plot, and Kramer frames the dances somewhat awkwardly. His affection for films like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Little Shop of Horrors runs through the film; an umbrella courtship number joins romantic leads Gerrit (Waldemar Torenstra, who resembles a well-built Alan Cumming) and Jet (Tjitske Reidinga, a young Shirley MacLaine type). Other songs include an ode to pigeons, a tour of the characters' circus dreams, a neighbor's nostalgic lament for fatherland Greece, a celebration of grandpas (complete with parade), the climactic gloating of the bad guy, and various other nonsense songs which would make Raffi blush with shame.

The unfocused fabulist plot includes the invention, by one of the Rest Home denizens, of a happy pill with the potential to change Boordevol from an evil, grunting Mr. Bean into a deliriously open-minded friend-to-all. Everyone eventually learns that good fences don't make good neighbors. The film opens with a serious disclaimer explaining that the Red Cross may not be represented at its best here, though no offense is intended. Then again, the good-hearted Nurse Klivia and the Busby Berkeley fantasias of Red Cross nurses make the Red Cross look pretty good.

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