Sunday, 27 June 2010

'Welcome to Collinwood': Devon times (continued)...

Although most of my time in Devon has been spent being driven down identical narrow roads or sitting on beaches (or waiting for my nan outside the Newquay branch of Peacocks), I have managed to see two films on DVD. The first was 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' on Friday night, which I judged to be passable if ultimately disposable fare. However, less amusing (and also featuring George Clooney) was last nights viewing: 'Welcome to Collinwood'. A film not even saved by the presence of Sam Rockwell.

In many ways 'Collinwood' is almost a remake of Woody Allen's 'Small Time Crooks' from two years prior (apparently itself a loose remake of the 1958 film 'Big Deal on Madonna Street'). As in 'Small Time Crooks' a group of ineffectual would-be criminals gather for one big heist that involves using one vacant property to break into another. They share gags too: in both films breaking through the wall leads to accidentally hitting a water pipe. As if to acknowledge these apparent similarities the film's end credits are in the Allen style (you'd know it if you saw it) and the incidental music (by Mark Mothersbaugh) is also a familiar easy going jazz.

This is all well and good. After all, if you're going to steal etc. The problem is not that it's shamelessly derivative, but that most of the humour involves pratfalls and physical business. The thing with that sort of humour is that no everyone can pull it off. You have to a skilled physical comedian to really make falling over funny. Tragically none of the actors here (in an ensemble cast that also includes William H. Macy, Luis Guzman and Michael Jeter) have it in them and the various scenes of peoples pants falling down do not register as much as a smile. I speak, of course, for myself. My nan was in fits of laughter every time somebody fell off a ladder or fell into some water, so what do I know?

Often the film changes gear and strains for poignancy which it characteristically fails at badly. It also tries to develop its own lingo ('mullinsky' and 'bellini' for example) which never takes off and halfway through the film seems to have been abandoned altogether. Writer/directors the Russo brothers (who also directed the 2006 comedy 'You, Me and Dupree') try for something timeless and distinctive here and have good intentions. The film is never nasty, always good-natured and events take place in a spirit of fun. However, no amount of wanting to enjoy this film is enough to actually make you actually enjoy it. Alongside this 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' looks less average (at least there you have the cinematography of Robert Elswit to keep you watching that film). Anyway, there is my two cents. Back into the sun.

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