Posts Tagged ‘Johnny Vegas’

From the Hootoo archive. Originally published September 25th 2003:

It seems a bit fatuous to write about a low-budget British comedy that’s just about finished its run on the big screen even as I write, but what the hell. Mel Smith’s Blackball is breezy good fun, and features a rare big-screen outing for the legendary Bernard Cribbins (Cribbins’ status as a comic genius should be evident to anyone who’s seen Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD), so let’s have a look at it anyway.

Based, admittedly quite loosely, on real-life events, this is the story of crown-green bowling prodigy Cliff Starkey (Paul Kaye) who, despite his enormous talent for the game, scandalises the bowling grandees of his native Torquay with his irreverent attitude towards it. Chief amongst his enemies is the Basil Fawlty-esque reigning champion Ray Speight (James Cromwell). Cliff beats Ray in the county championship, but after (justifiably) calling him a rather rude name, finds himself on the wrong end of a fifteen year ban. But the incident also makes him a bit of a celebrity, and before long the siren song of wealth and fame is calling him…

To be honest, any claim to a basis on true events which this film may have evaporates after about twenty-five minutes, at which point the appearance of a rather incongruous Vince Vaughn heralds its transformation into a rather cartoonish parody of many sports movies and a satire on the way many sports have been glitzed up for the media. The comedy is broad, knockabout stuff, but performed quite well by a cast containing many familiar faces off the telly. Bernard Cribbins is, predictably, great as Cliff’s grandad, and so is Johnny Vegas as his best mate – even if he’s simply just recycling his standard comic persona for the occasion.

This is a fun film, but an substantial one. The near-total lack of depth or realism jars with the ‘too much, too young’ arc of the middle section of the plot, which in any case seldom strays very far from predictability. The jokes do get increasingly daft as it proceeds, and it does strongly resemble a shambolic 1970s comedy film in a couple of places. But it’s very likeable, and does make a few astute observations about the commercialisation of sport along the way. Enjoyable.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published 26th February 2004.

More evidence of the British Film Council’s unerring instinct when it comes to investing millions of pounds in complete crap is provided with the release of Andy Humphries’ Sex Lives of the Potato Men, which I unhesitatingly award the title of Worst Film I’ve Seen Since I Started Writing For The Post. It possesses all the wit, charm, and entertainment value of being harpooned in the scrotum.

This plotless shambles revolves around the doings of a quartet of Birmingham spud delivery men. Johnny Vegas (who’s mainly notable, filmically, for failing to get the part of Sam Gamgee) plays Dave, a lazy drunk who’s just been chucked out by his wife and is now desperate to play the field a bit. Mackenzie Crook (from Pirates of the Caribbean, although come to think of it he could probably have played Gollum without the need for CGI) plays Ferris, who’s giving his former mother-in-law personal services in lieu of rent. Sam Kisgart (from The League of Gentlemen) plays Jeremy, who’s hilariously stalking his ex-girlfriend. And Dominic Coleman plays Tolley, an enthusiastic w**ker (in every sense). They are all obsessed with sex, one way or another.

And that’s pretty much the entirety of the movie, which is pretty consistently squalid and unfunny for the duration of its (thankfully brief) running time. There really is not any plot to speak of, just a series of sketch-like vignettes with a few running jokes linking them together – I use the word ‘joke’ both broadly and charitably. Humphries, the auteur responsible for this wretched farrago, is under the impression that ‘I’d be a workaholic if I wasn’t so lazy‘ is a passably witty line, and his idea of a sight-gag is a close-up of a gob of snot on the end of someone’s finger. So Ferris is nearly fellated by an octogenarian, Jeremy kidnaps his ex’s dog, Dave turns up for a threesome only to find he won’t be the only male participant, and the audience remains stolidly untroubled by the urge to laugh.

To be fair, to begin with it just looks like Sex Lives is going to just be charmingly awful like many British comedies before it, but the truth soon sinks in: this is really determinedly worthless and awful, a film which treats both its audience and its characters with utter contempt. That said, it would take even less talent than Humphries possesses to make a film with this strong a cast (as well as Crook, Vegas and Kisgart, Julia Davis and Lucy Davis also appear) that doesn’t raise a few smiles. And so it proves: there is the occasional mildly funny moment, but – tellingly – most of these spring from broad physical comedy, where the film manages to tear itself away from its schoolboy obsession with sex. But these moments are very few and very far between.

Humphries’ direction is almost completely artless, his sole good idea being to make copious use of classic pop and rock (Motorhead, the Coral, Carl Douglas) on the soundtrack in order to hide how ropey the rest of the film is. As diversionary tactics go this is marginally effective. But I really wonder if it’s worth even trying to have a domestic film industry if the best we can come up with is total crap like this. Clearly inspired by all those mid-70s Robin Asquith sex comedies and late period Carry On films, Sex Lives Of The Potato Men fails to meet even their risibly low standards. For pity’s sake, avoid.

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