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Jackboots on Whitehall

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Jackboots on Whitehall posterThere are (at most) three jokes in Jackboots on Whitehall. That’s a rate of one every thirty-one minutes. None of them are funny.

Any attempt at a synopsis would appear much more enticing than the film itself – to avoid responsibility for any inflated expectations, I will just direct you to the trailer (which, as usual, reveals many of the ‘best’ bits).

It’s a script that sounds like one of two things. First, the catastrophic self-conscious abortion of a writer whose concept has unexpectedly secured funding, but who discovers too late that he can deliver neither character nor humour. Second, the vanity project of spoilt pseudo-aristocratic rugger buggers suffering from brain damage (was it the scrum or the lash, lads?) whose sole inspiration comes from reruns on Dave viewed through a groggy film of chunder.

Not one quip turns on something out of history – the complete absence of satire betrays the film’s unintentional historical illiteracy. It is not an irreverent film – it’s simply an ignorant one. Even if it is an attempt to pastiche pop-culture manipulation and mythologisation of the period, it fails to do so with more than half a brain cell.

The incredible and entirely wasted vocal talent behind Jackboots on Whitehall cannot conceivably have consented on the basis of the script alone. They must have worked on the presumption that the directors could bring humour with the visual component of the film (which, if I might remind you, is 90% of the playing field, boys). And while the film’s animation is competently designed, if underwhelming, there is a surprising lack of visual wit or slander.

It’s not far into the film that one start to realise why brothers McHenry have not placed themselves at the forefront of marketing. Light is gradually shed on the reason for which a film with such ostensibly ‘British’ (read, ‘English’) credentials was produced and sold from the United States. It might do well there, running late nights in small urban screens to cackling clutches of drug-addled idiots.

I will confess, there are actually two little chuckles in the film’s gruelling ninety-three minutes. Both are at the expense of camp renditions of Goering and Himmler. The Germans are gay and the British (sorry, English) are drunk and sweary – ha, ha.

I might have been able to enjoy the film’s closing passage, in which the Scots save the day under the banner of Mel Gibson. But Jackboots on Whitehall had been so consistently unfunny, slapdash, reprobate, that I was in no mood to make concessions. And while anyone who doesn’t take oneself too serious can have a laugh at their own expense, the joke falls flat if it ISN’T FUNNY.


Jackboots on Whitehall, dir./wri. Edward & Rory McHenry, star. Ewan McGregor, Rosamund Pike, Richard E Grant, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson, Alan Cumming, et al., UK, 2010


Written by James P. Campbell

22/06/2010 at 00:16

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