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dir Terry Jones
prd Bill Jones, Ben Timlett
scr Gavin Scott, Terry Jones
with Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Rob Riggle, Eddie Izzard, Joanna Lumley, Emma Pierson, Robert Bathurst
voices Robin Williams, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam
release UK 14.Aug.15, US 12.May.17
How the audience feels: Dennis and Pegg
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
A jaw-dropping misfire, this sci-fi comedy attempts to be a British version of Bruce Almighty, but is little more than clumsy madcap idiocy. While the presence of the Monty Python team hints that there should be some absurd hilarity, this is just a sequence of gags straining desperately for a laugh that never comes.
When the Intergalactic Council (voiced by the Pythons) intercepts a 1972 American space probe, they watch a series of stupid YouTube clips and decide that Earth deserves obliteration. Offering a lifeline, they pick earthling Neil (Pegg) at random and give him 10 days to do the right things with superpowers that allow him to do absolutely anything. A dorky North London schoolteacher, he haplessly uses his powers to make his dog Dennis speak (with Williams' voice) and his sexy neighbour Catherine (Beckinsale) fall in love with him. Except that she inexplicably likes him already.
Several sideplots pad out the slim running time, including Neil's colleague Ray (Bhaskar) becoming an object of adoration for the Phys Ed teacher (Pierson), and Catherine's obsessive one-night-stand (Riggle) stalking her with military precision. Other strands involving Izzard (as an angry headmaster), Lumley (as a snooty TV presenter) and Bathurst (as Catherine's leery boss) are abandoned along the way by the generally sloppy screenplay. And any hint of ramshackle charm is quashed by George Fenton's insipid comedy score.
In between appearing in blockbuster franchises, Pegg's loyalty to the British rom-com industry is laudable, even if for every enjoyable Man Up he makes an excruciating Hector and the Search for Happiness. This is one of his least likeable heroes yet: a loser who never deserves to get the girl. Beckinsale is blandly radiant throughout, as if she wisely neglected to read the script. And the late, great Williams elicits the film's only smiles by ignoring the screenplay altogether.
It's obvious that this wasn't an inexpensive film to make. It was shot mainly on location (in my neighbourhood!) and boasts some impressive effects work. Although you have to feel sorry for the digital artists who used their skills to animate a dog poo. Yes, the movie is all over the place, an awkward attempt to be heartwarming and wacky at the same time. Jones tries to maintain a childishly zany approach while indulging in adult humour, which means that this is a movie for absolutely nobody. Although the French will probably adore it.
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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