Is Mindhorn a mighty film?
The prevalent feeling I felt after having seen Mindhorn was mild frustration. Whilst hilarious in parts, it could have been so much better. Julian Barratt is fantastic, it manages to maintain a playful tone, and it is definitely entertaining enough to keep you interested. You might be wondering why I was slightly disappointed then. Well, considering that I was the biggest The Mighty Boosh fan imaginable for years, I think it stems from my expectations being slightly too high. It’s a good comedy film, but it was never going to reach the same heights as Barratt’s legendary cult classic.
I think the most glaring issue is the uneven tone of the film. The 1st and 3rd acts are wonderful, but the middle not so much. The laughs just seem to dissipate and the plot goes into a standstill. Luckily this isn’t for the majority of the film, but it definitely is a big enough issue to taint the experience. Another matter is the lack of character depth. Other than our protagonist we get archetypes instead of real people. We get a drunk man, a sleazy man, an angry man, an angry woman and a whole host of rather 2-D characters. Barratt, as I expected, is absolutely fantastic, but those around him don’t offer the same depth or relatability, and as they are such obvious cardboard cutouts they don’t really contribute any humour.
The narrative doesn’t venture into any uncharted territory. An accurate comparison narratively is Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, with a hint of Anomalisa‘s depressive tone and counteraction to American optimism. Whilst the concept of a part cyborg man who can see the truth fleeing from Communists to the Isle of Man makes for a unique and peculiar side note, it essentially has the same basic structure of a fading star who gets an unlikely chance to reclaim the limelight. It also has the same cynical, yet unmistakably British humour. Steve Coogan himself is in the film, so, maybe they were aware of the influence and this was a nod to it. Either way, it’s nothing particularly original. This isn’t an Earth-shattering issue, but it is a slight shame that it couldn’t have been less predictable. It manages to work with the cliched premise successfully, but it’s still a cliche nonetheless. At times it feels like it would’ve worked better as a TV series as opposed to a film, much like Alpha Papa. It stammers at points, the pacing is off, and it doesn’t quite justify the runtime. Barratt did actually write this movie, so maybe, as a TV writer, he isn’t attuned to writing a film screenplay.
Mindhorn definitely has its issues, but it’s still great at points. Some of the humour is exceptional and wholly original. Whether it be the ridiculous “He’s blind, he’s black and he’s back!” tagline to a TV show or the hilarious subversion of the peaceful death cliche when they ruin The Kestrel’s dying moments, the humour is relentless enough, although at times slightly too easy to anticipate, to keep you entertained. This humour, along with Barratt’s energetic and vibrant performance, and his naturally awkward, depressive, yet funny demeanour, mean that it’s never dull for too long. Okay, it may be mildly tedious at points, but at around 1 hour and 30 minutes, it still flies by. Generally, any glaring issues you notice are gone before they can really have too great an impact on your enjoyment.
The issues the film has, whilst a shame, aren’t too significant. They can be looked past, and luckily the film is irreverent enough for its problems to take the backseat to the comedy. Yes, I’d rather these issues not be there, but they don’t ruin the experience. At the end of the day, the rather depressive, cynical feel of the film is wholly British, and, if like me, you’re sick to death of the neverending stream of tedious, repetitive Hollywood blockbusters, then this amusing slice of British sardonicism is the perfect medicine. Whilst not flawless in every department, it has enough charm to see you through. It may not be as mighty as the boosh, but it’s still an enjoyable and worthwhile watch, and it’s nice as a Barratt fan to see him perform in his usual comedic persona.