The Harry Hill Movie: a stale burp

HARRY HILL THE MOVIETHROUGHOUT the entirety of The Harry Hill Movie’s rather crawling 88 minutes, I found myself glancing restlessly around to the other six members of the audience in the Commodore cinema. It started around two minutes in when, after a pace-setting moped race with half-arsed Police Squad! shots and positively zany(!) intercuts, a deathly silence reigned. The silence reigned for the ensuing 86 minutes. There is nothing – nothing – worse in cinema than a comedy that fails to make its audience laugh. Harry Hill’s first and let us hope only foray onto the silver screen sinks effortlessly into the sewers of tepid surrealism, worthless absurdism and unrelenting unfunniness. Maybe your kids will like it; I won’t insult their intelligence by presuming as much.

The premise, such as it is, revolves around Harry Hill and his Nan embarking on a roadtrip to Blackpool when their hamster Abu is given a week to live having been afflicted with the voice of Johnny Vegas and Nickelodeon projectile vomit. Not all is well in Harry’s world however, as his evil twin (Matt Lucas), abandoned on the roadside and raised by Alsatians, plots to steal Abu for his own nefarious plans.

Shakespeare this ain’t. What isn’t covered by inanely wacky shenanigans and lead-footed references (Jurassic Park? Really?) is flanked by aggressively awful and numerous musical numbers – yes, musical numbers. Had I prior knowledge of these interminable, distinctly unamusing ‘songs’ I might not have been so horrified every time they popped up. I reached a point where I was forcing myself to laugh as an act of clemency. It fails as a comedy on every conceivable level, deserving every ounce of my emphatic derision and yet… I can’t bring myself to hate The Harry Hill Movie.

The jokes fall too flat, the cameos grate too quickly and the general aesthetic of Carry On kitsch is rather irritating and yet… I can’t bring myself to hate The Harry Hill Movie. Why not? We can lay the film down on an operating table and analyse its failures until the rainbow badgers come cartwheeling home (wacky!), but there are some positives to extract from its flailing corpse. One: It’s not crass, cynical or offensive in the vein of, say, Keith Lemon: The Film. Two: It never strays from its roots, grounding itself squarely in BBQ Beef Hula Hoops, Butlins and parochial self-awareness; by not going too big, it deftly sidesteps the trap that many film adaptations of British shows fall into.

Three: Everyone involved looks like they’re having a lot of fun. The man himself, freed from the constraints of syndicated television, seems to be having a riot of a time in his hang-glider collar, losing nothing of his idiosyncratic comedic style in the transition to the big screen. Julie Walters as Nan embarrasses herself with admirable gusto. Jim Broadbent drags up, the Magic Numbers run a B&B (looking very confused in the process) and a shell-encrusted Sheridan Smith turns into a puppet while singing a song about how great it is on the ocean floor. It’s not good – at all – but the important thing is they’re having fun.

It’s a real shame then that the cast’s enthusiasm falls so far short of being infectious. For all the fleeting sparks of enjoyment to be had in The Harry Hill Movie there’s a lumpen bum note or a tiresome Les Miserables send-up to batten it down. Considering Hill’s next project is I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical, the turgid, uninspired mess of the songs presented herein should be particularly concerning. Despite its strange, unwieldy, homebrewed charm, the film can’t conjure up nearly enough comedic momentum to propel it forward as it limps from one groaning vignette to another with no connecting through-line. As such, I can’t recommend it even to the hardiest of Hill fanatics; the highs are low and the lows are truly embarrassing troughs. Watch some old episodes of TV Burp instead.

The Harry Hill Movie is showing at the Commodore – see the listings here.