2 years

Review: Mindhorn (2016)

Fiction becomes fact in this slapdash farce

A review of Mindhorn

The Isle of Man is famous for a few things – cats and the TT Races among them – now it’s the setting for this independent comedy starring The Mighty Boosh‘s Julian Barratt. Unfortunately for Mindhorn/fortunately for the island, it will probably become a distant memory.

Hit shows and sitcoms are notoriously unsuccessful when transferred to the big screen, but sometimes they are just trying to give the fans what they want. Mindhorn cannot even lay claim to this as an excuse for its shortcomings. It bears many of the hallmarks many of the big comedies of the 2000s, but is not a spin off of any of them, making this a rather pointless exercise.

The premise is promising enough, even if it does sound reminiscent of some pictures that have come before it. A washed-up actor, by the name of Richard Thorncroft (Barratt) is assigned by his agency to travel to the Isle of Man to help the police there bring an escaped lunatic, Paul Melly (Russell Tovey), to justice. This is in fact where the TV series Mindhorn was set during the 1980s, and playing the titular crime-fighter remains the pinnacle of Thorncroft’s work. But with Melly firmly believing that Mindhorn actually exists, it is a chance for him to gain some positive publicity and maybe get back to something like those heady days – the perfect PR exercise and the ultimate test of method acting. There’s even the chance to win favour with his former co-star Patricia Deville (Essie Davis).

And with that the film does burn brightly for the first thirty minutes. Naturally, this is also a kind of homage to the golden era of crime thriller TV in the 70s and 80s such as The Professionals and Knight Rider. There is also more than a telling nod to a classic of that time, Bergerac (police on an island, etc). The verbal gags are quite amusing, whilst the casting of both Kenneth Branagh and Simon Callow as themselves in cameo roles is a minor masterstroke.

Alas, the good stuff doesn’t last. When the physical, slapstick humour starts to kick in, it borders on the puerile and in turn the previously praiseworthy verbals start to suffer. It’s a shame because you now start wondering where the film is heading: was this originally intended to be an extended version of The Mighty Boosh and then instead it decided to become a full-blown movie? Did the director decide to throw in the towel and leave them to it after the first half an hour?

Yes of course this is a movie that lends itself to being a bit daft, but it didn’t need to stoop to the level that it has. However, for those of you that are still inquisitive, Mindhorn will be released on EST from August 28 and on DVD and Blu-Ray from September 4, full to the brim with special features and extras.

Among the more positive comments made about Mindhorn upon its initial release was that “the gags-per-minute ration is through the roof”. Very true up to a point, it’s just that the majority of those gags aren’t that funny.


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