An appropriate title for the subject matter, an optimistic prophecy for the reception of the movie? I’d imagine that Ben Miller would love to have it be a bit of both but, sadly, this tale of two comedians trying to make it to the top as a double act doesn’t set the entertainment world alight in the way it’s protagonists want to.
Ben Miller is probably best known to fans of UK comedy for his work as one half of comedy duo, Armstrong & Miller and, strangely enough, is someone I kind of like without really watching a lot of his stuff. Which means that I really wanted to like his feature debut in the director’s chair.
Johnny Harris is trying to make it in the world of comedy but isn’t really that funny. Noel Clarke is quite happy working in his waiting job, so he says, even though he IS funny. When the two meet, as Clarke drunkenly heckles Harris and turns a bad solo spot into a great outing for the duo, Harris really thinks they have what it takes to make it. Surely, their big break will arrive when everyone realises just how funny they are.
With two great lead performances, and a wealth of familiar faces in small, supporting roles (including fleeting appearances from the likes of Ricky Grover and the wonderful Earl Okin), this tries hard to stand out from the other movies that have shown us the work it takes to create “easy” laughs. Based on a stage play (written by Simon Godley, Jez Butterworth and Ben Miller), the movie manages to avoid feeling stagey but that’s only one of it’s few high points.
The lows may not mean much individually but they soon stack up and weigh the movie down. Thandie Newton’s character, a hyper agent, is not worth the time she’s given onscreen; only there for the one scene to basically prompt some uncharacteristic stupidity from the leads. Then there’s the character played by Harris, a straight man so unfunny that you find it hard to believe he would try to get into comedy in the first place, which may arguably be the point. In fact, the entire movie veers between moments of reality and honesty and then other moments that feel completely unbelievable.
The stage “death” is very well done, the script has some decent lines throughout, the love for the classic comedy that never goes out of fashion as long as it IS truly funny is clear throughout and there’s one moment of explosive anger that’s genuinely hilarious but that’s about it. A distinctly average film that I was hoping would, indeed, be huge.
DIRECTOR: BEN MILLER
CAST: JOHNNY HARRIS, NOEL CLARKE, THANDIE NEWTON
RUNTIME: 85 MINS APPROX