Churchill: The Hollywood Years
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Peter Richardson
scr Peter Richardson, Pete Richens
with Christian Slater, Neve Campbell, Leslie Phillips, Antony Sher, Miranda Richardson, Harry Enfield, Jessica Oyelowo, Mackenzie Crook, Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Rik Mayall, James Dreyfuss
release UK 3.Dec.04
04/UK 1h30

The princess and the soldier: Campbell and Slater

slater campbell richardson
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Churchill: The Hollywood Years This offbeat comedy is basically a British filmmaker's response to decades of Hollywood revisionism--historical epics that cast America as the sole hero even if other countries actually did the job (see for example U-571). Here Britain's role in WWII is retold as an American action movie, and the result is very funny, even if it never scales the heights of classic satire.

In this version, Winston Churchill (Slater) is actually a handsome American G.I. who sweeps into 1940 London to save the day. Meanwhile, the young Princess Elizabeth (Campbell) also gets involved in the war effort, and sparks fly when she and Winston meet. Together they'll have to foil a sinister plot within the Palace involving a trusted aid (Phillips) to the clueless King (Enfield), as well as a secret visit by Hitler and Eva Braun (Sher and Richardson) themselves!

The story is completely preposterous, of course, and that's entirely the point. The film is jammed with riffs on how stupid Hollywood movies are--from inane action to ludicrous romance. And these knowing, assured jabs make the film genuinely funny, even though otherwise it's fairly annoying ... because it's an authentically stupid action movie with trashy dialog and corny characters! But as a satire this is very smart stuff with a strong point to make about American triumphalism.

Slater is excellent--every inch the all-American hero, complete with sparkling teeth, swashbuckling stunts and even a gratuitous shirtless scene. While Campbell is terrific as the young Queen, nailing Elizabeth's quirky accent and amusingly recasting her as a romantic movie heroine. Much of the film is similarly preposterous, gleefully playing with cliches and stereotypes as well as sly spoofs of everything from Brief Encounter to Mary Poppins (Dick Van Dyke Street in East London is populated by riverdancing "Irish Cockneys"). So the frequently dips into vulgarity seem cheap and witless. And in an apparent concession to people who might not get the joke, there are awkward bookend segments featuring a bad Tony Blair impersonator trying to negotiate with Hollywood. Director-cowriter Richardson should have more faith in his audience.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo, violence 4.Aug.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Churchill: The Hollywood Years Alice, Torbay: "Last April-ish I had the chance to watch part of the film being made at Oldway Mansions in Torbay where I was working at the time. Looks extremely interesting - can't wait to see the final version. Hitler marrying a young Queen Elizabeth? Lots of German stormtroopers. Harry Enfield walked past in pinstripe suit reading a paper. Someone flying from the ceiling. Christian Slater looking gorgeous (yup got an autograph, nice young man oer!). Neve Campbell walking around poshed up with plastic bag on hair? Managed to rub knees with Vic Reeves too. Roll out the movie - I can't wait!" (21.Aug.04)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall