|The Parole Officer||
Coogan and Co. Underneath that mild mannered exterior...
dir John Duigan|
scr Steve Coogan, Henry Normal
with Steve Coogan, Lena Headey, Stephen Dillane, Om Puri, Steven Waddington, Ben Miller, Emma Williams, John Henshaw, Justin Burrows, Jenny Agutter, Omar Sharif
release UK 10.Aug.01; US 10.May.02
Steve Coogan is Britain's answer to Adam Sandler--a brilliant sketch comedian now trying to make the leap to the big screen. Fortunately for us, his brand of humour is a lot more subtle and twisted than Sandler's. It's still stupid, but you don't have to switch your brain off to enjoy it. His guise here is Simon Garden, a not-terribly-successful probation officer who is proud of his three success stories (Puri, Waddington and Miller), and trying to forget his far more numerous disasters. Transferred from Blackpool to Manchester, he suddenly gets caught in the middle of a crime gang led by top cop Burton (Dillane). Now with the help of his old friends and one new one (Williams), Simon has to prove he's innocent, catch Burton red-handed ... and get the girl (Headey), a fellow officer.
Basically this is your standard heist comedy slightly twisted here and there with Coogan's own style--intelligent-yet-silly jokes that make you both laugh and cringe ... mostly at yourself. He delights in taking a cliche and warping it slightly, giving us exactly what we don't expect and refusing to fall for the easy punchline. None of this gives the film any more substance, but it certainly makes it more fun to watch. Coogan maintains the character with frightening consistency--Simon is much more likeable than most of his alter egos (Alan Partridge and Paul Calf spring to mind). He's still bumbling and embarrassing, but we root for him all along, even though we never have any doubts. And the very strong supporting cast (plus nice cameos from Agutter and Sharif) add some depth and sheer talent to the proceedings. All are thoroughly entertaining. If the whole film didn't feel so slight and derivative, it could be a minor comic gem. It'll be interesting to see if Coogan dares to bring one of his more abrasive personas to the big screen next.
Steve Tattersall, Fife: "Brilliantly done classic comedy in the British style. Well-sustained and very funny. Especially liked the big dipper scene and anything with Lena Headey in it. Can't seem to find decent pictures of her on the net." (15.Aug.01)
Big Geoff, Cardiff: "I love Steve Coogan. He is a very sexy man. I thought Emma Williams was fantastic!! She was so sexy, she could almost make me like girls. See this movie. It's VERY funny!" (30.May.02)
John Capes, Hull: "I have watched the film and I think it was top notch. Excellent! It's definitely a must-watch. I am so pleased with the film I watch it every time it's on." (26.Oct.03)