Churchill: The Hollywood Years

Chris McLaughlin was slightly disappointed by this watering down of the ‘Comic Strip Presents...’ legacy, but it’s all in the name of good clean fun..

By Chris McLaughlin

Christian Slater and Neve Campbell star in this new parody of stereotypical American action films and their fondness for rewriting history to put America centre stage, on the hero's throne.

Slater plays US marine Winston Churchill. Tired of his bloody struggle on the battlefields of Europe he travels to England with his sidekick, 'token black guy' D Eisenhower, in the hope of talking King George into persuading England to come and help the fight. There he meets and starts a liaison with future monarch Princess Elizabeth (Campbell). Unfortunately the king's aide, the dastardly Lord W'ruff (Leslie Phillips) has his own plans for the war effort, and has smuggled Hitler into the country to coerce the king into signing over control of our great nation. The brave WC must now thwart the efforts of Lord W'ruff and the Germans single-handedly on British soil.

Directed by Peter Richardson, this film is a new offering from the loose collective behind 'The Comic Strip Presents...', who produced many short films for television throughout the 80s. Richardson, in fact, already parodied Hollywood intervention in history in the television film Strike, which similarly featured a rewrite of the 1984 miners strike, and Richardson playing Al Pacino playing Arthur Scargill... phew.

Back to the present day, this is a feast of silliness from the very beginning, as you can probably tell, which is fine if you have a liking for this kind of movie. That's not to say that there are no intelligent jokes in here. As well as slapstick and schoolboy smut (which make up the vast amount of the gags) there is some subtle humour and a few political swipes. But the slapstick in this comedy is a little too much to bear at times, the gags so predictable and overstated that one can only think they have been added in homage to previous comedy classics. This presents the viewer with two contradictory opinions of the film. One, that it may be too stupid; the other that it may be too clever for its own good.

It's saved, though, by an exemplary cast featuring the theatrical world's shining lights (Anthony Sher plays a wonderful Hitler), British comic heroes, and the new wave of stars such as The Office's Mackenzie Crook ('Irish cockney' Jim Cheroo) and The League Of Gentlemen's Steve Pemberton, who both give excellent performances and breathe new life into some of the hackneyed jokes. And, as the lunacy of the piece increases towards the end, it moves away from cosy Carry On humour and explores a slightly darker aspect of what makes us laugh.

On the whole this is safe comedy and lacks the edge of previous Comic Strip offerings. It's a great satire of Hollywood stereotypes and playfully pokes fun at everyone within a ten mile radius. A good concept which, in execution, is like a cross between the Sid James and Hot Shots. I'm sure it'll be a success.
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