Words can’t explain how much I love John Landis. Frustratingly, since I’m writing a review and not telling you what I think of new film releases via the medium of mime, I’m going to have to do my best with them. Okay, (clears throat), here goes…
“I BLOODY LOVE JOHN LANDIS, I THINK HE’S A GENIUS, I LOVE THE BLUES BROTHERS, I LOVE TRADING PLACES, BUT MOST OF ALL I LOVE AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, I THINK IT’S ONE OF THE BEST FILMS EVER MADE. ANYWAY, I’VE MENTIONED THAT I THINK HE’S A GENIUS, RIGHT?”
That, dear reader, is how much I love John Landis.
And so it gives me no pleasure at all to report that even I can’t deny that the director’s first film in twelve years is a damp squib of a comeback. It’s boring, it’s bizarrely childish, it appears to have taken it’s sense of humour from the episodes of Blackadder that weren’t very good. Yet the fanboy in me sorta thinks Landis shouldn’t take all the blame; his film stars Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis as the Irish murderers William Burke and William Hare, who commit their crimes to provide corpses for Dr Knox (Tom Wilkinson) to dissect in 1828 Edinburgh. Both Pegg and Serkis are better actors than should be staring in a throwaway jape-heavy comedy like this, yet there are few in the movie that aren’t worthy of gracing better material. I mean, one of the two Ronnies is in it!
(That would be the diminutive Corbett by the way, not the one that’s dead, that’d be sick and a bit too dark, even for a movie that gives much screentime to corpses).
Yet on the subject of darkness, it’s a matter of tone which is responsible for much of Burke & Hare’s failings – for that, you can’t levy the blame much beyond the man behind the camera. You can’t help feeling there’s a great British black comedy somewhere in the crevices of Burke & Hare (or maybe I’ve just seen that the film was shot at Ealing studios and felt overly wistful for the complex’s past achievements), yet what plays out is more like an end of season pantomime, or a lost Carry On film. Whichever it is, neither is a glowing recommendation. Both are some way off what I hoped the returning Landis would serve up.
Landis’ next project is the crime thriller Some Guy Who Kills People. I’m sorta looking forward to it, but probably less so than I was. Until it opens, you’ll find me in my bedroom, under the sheets, rewatching An American Werewolf In London and sobbing quietly.
My love for John Landis remains big, but certainly bruised.