Let’s start with the base. In a large bowl combine the plots of Galaxy Quest and the ‘Single Female Lawyer’ episode of Futurama. Then, add to this a concentrated mix of two parts Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and one part The Mighty Boosh, and finally, stir in a couple of undiluted lashings of Alan Partridge and Columbo. What you are left with is something resembling Mindhorn, the latest endeavour penned by Boosh alumni Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby (the guy with a head like a conker), and directed by Sean Foley.
The film opens with a preface in which we look back a couple of decades to actor Richard Thorncroft (played by Barratt) in his heyday, playing a wisecracking crime-solving womanizing detective in the 80s TV series Mindhorn. Mindhorn’s USP is that he can quite literally ‘see’ the truth, having had a robotic eye installed following an injury, after which he fled to the Isle of Man. And this is the setting for the rest of the film; where in the present day Thorncroft (now a has-been) returns to help the police catch a serial killer who believes that Mindhorn is a real detective.
There is something wonderful and uniquely British about the ‘Comedy of Lameness’, and Mindhorn resides squarely within this subgenre. Barratt is a master when it comes to being generally quite ‘lame’, deriving most of his humour from the fact that he’s a bit podgy and uncool and fond of beige, and so the framework of this film really allows the forces of his lameness to be unleashed. By far the funniest character, though, is Clive Parnevik (played by Farnaby), a Dutch stuntman who worked on Mindhorn, stole Thorncroft’s woman, and now wanders around the garden of their stately home perpetually shirtless and often brandishing a hedge trimmer. His character is so mad that he’s almost Booshian, and Farnaby easily gets the lion’s share of the best lines, also managing to elevate Barratt’s performance in their shared scenes by the sheer force of his dedication to the part. And Russell Tovey is quite lovely and brilliant as Paul Melly aka The Kestrel. It cannot be denied that every actor in Mindhorn is giving it their all, and nobody shies away from going full ‘weird’ (although Steve Coogan doesn’t really get enough to do).
The Isle of Man is the perfect setting for all of this lameness to unfold, and there is a very funny parade scene towards the end which utilizes the island’s less-than-cool image and brings us a moment of perfectly delivered self-awareness. A lot of the film’s strength lies in its lo-fi treatment of Mindhorn as a representation of 80s detective shows, from its grainy VHS look to the synth-heavy music – these were the parts that seemed to garner the most laughs from the audience thanks to their Marenghi-esque genius.
As funny and inspired as Mindhorn is, though, some of its scenes do drag and the pacing is a little loose at times.It’s a film that doesn’t really feel enough like a ‘film’. Shows such asGarth Marenghi’sDarkplace and I’m Alan Partridgeare served up in 25-minute portions, and are better for it; the time restriction forces the writers to pack the jokes in and fine-tune the pacing to get the most out of every second. Perhaps the extreme‘Britishness’ of this particular style of comedy is just more suited to the small screen. Mindhorn being stretched across 90 minutes feels stretched, and its lack of cinematic qualities is very noticeable when it is viewed in the cinema.
The recipe of Mindhornblends together some pretty potent elements, and, yet, the end result doesn’t really feel potent enough. Although it has some excellent performances and moments of genius, the overall content of the story doesn’t completely justify the medium in which it is presented. However – the song that plays during the end credits might just have been worth the ticket price alone.
Review by Jade O’Halloran
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