Mixing the stiff-upper-lipped derring do of the classic British wartime action movies (and comics such as “Commando”) with the skewed comic sensibilities of Team America: World Police, this movie may not necessarily spin the smartest take on it’s alternative WWII plotline but with it’s scattershot approach and an irreverent sense of humour at times reminiscent of the Monty Python boys there’s not much time to overanalyse and criticise things in between the laughs.
With the British army stranded in Dunkirk and the Air Force effectively destroyed, Nazi Germany finally manages to invade England via an underground tunnel churned through by a handy, digging machine. Before you can say “nein, nein, nein” it’s a national emergency as swastika-emblazoned banners are draped from Buckingham Palace, The Ritz is turned into The Fritz and the Land Of Hope And Glory has become little more than Hitler’s playground. Winston Churchill (voiced by Timothy Spall) is, fortunately, saved from certain capture/death by a plucky group of villagers from Kent, led by young Christopher (Ewan McGregor), a lad who was not allowed into the army because his hands were too big. The next major problem comes from trying to gain support from the inhabitants of that mysterious Scot-Land.
That all may sound ridiculous enough already but you also have to remember that this movie is acted out almost entirely by action figures and dolls, allowing for a lot more insanity and epic carnage than Edward and Rory McHenry (who both wrote and directed the thing) would otherwise have been able to depict. That’s not to say that the whole thing feels like it was made for pennies. Okay, there’s a certain charm inherent in it’s low-lo-fi approach but there are still a few nice moments and cinematic tricks thrown in there to emulate anything you may have seen in similar live-action movies. Remember that great moment in The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King when the beacons are lit? That’s given more than a passing nod here, stylishly done and yet also a great gag considering the “scale” being worked with and that’s just one example of many to choose from. Indeed, the movie is packed with nods and references; from the catalogue of classic war movies to Independence Day, from The Terminator to (oh yes indeed) Braveheart. There’s a lot of fun here for eagle-eyed movie fans.
Then we have the vocal cast, a great selection all suited to their particular roles even if the reasoning as to exactly why aren’t made clear until the latter scenes of the movie. McGregor does okay with his accent, Spall is acceptable and we have people like Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Rosamund Pike, Pam Ferris, Alan Cumming, Richard O’Brien, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Tom Wilkinson all joining in with the fun. None of the performances are exactly subtle but when dealing with a movie that depicts Hitler as a dress-wearing, camp Führer then subtle is never that high on the agenda.
The McHenry boys have created something off-kilter, very British and very barmy. It has moments of brilliance but sandwiches them in between some lesser laughs that still entertain thanks to the main gimmick of the movie.
DIRECTOR: EDWARD McHENRY/RORY McHENRY
CAST: EWAN McGREGOR, RICHARD E. GRANT, ALAN CUMMING, ROSAMUND PIKE, TIMOTHY SPALL
RUNTIME: APPROX 93 MINUTES