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  Churchill: The Hollywood Years Hands Across The Water
Year: 2004
Director: Peter Richardson
Stars: Christian Slater, Neve Campbell, Miranda Richardson, Antony Sher, Romany Malco, Harry Enfield, Phil Cornwell, Rik Mayall, Jessica Oyelowo, Leslie Phillips, Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Steve Pemberton, Mackenzie Crook, James Dreyfus, John Culshaw, Simon Day
Genre: Comedy, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The present day, and there is some unexpected news for the Prime Minister (John Culshaw) when an American army officer informs him that the Winston Churchill the British public knew was in fact Roy Bubbles, an actor, and the real Churchill was actually an American G.I. (Christian Slater). Imagine if this were true, Hollywood would have to make a movie about it, wouldn't they? It might go something like this... back in 1940, G.I. Churchill arrives in London to assist in the Second World War, little knowing he is about to become involved with a certain Princess Elizabeth (Neve Campbell) who is doing her bit under a pseudonym...

What British cinema really needed in 2004, so apparently thought director Peter Richardson and co-writer Pete Richens, was an updating of Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, and that's essentially what Churchill: The Hollywood Years was all about. Although here the target of the satire was less about skewering Adolf Hitler (played by Anthony Sher and continually being mistaken for Chaplin in the film) than nailing the manner in which America's movie factories make history and society palatable by rendering them in as plain terms as possible.

In this case, it's to make them as idiotic as possble too, and the film that Richardson and Richens seem most put out about is Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor, a painting of a World War II atrocity with as few complications as they could muster, while still including gung ho derring do. This film's budget wouldn't stretch to the setpieces of that blockbuster, but you kind of see their point even if they are aiming at a broad target; it's just that this is perhaps the only joke in the whole enterprise.

The creators of this were key members of The Comic Strip Presents..., a run of television plays mostly from the eighties that brought "alternative comedy" to British screens. Inevitably, they took their humour to the big screen as well, The Supergrass being the first, and Churchill was the latest in the line, especially as it was obviously derived from the previous TV episodes Strike and G.L.C. which saw "Hollywood" verisons of recent British history. This time it had actual American stars, but only of the not exactly A-list calibre of Slater and Campbell.

They both acquit themselves nicely, with Campbell managing a respectable posh English accent, and they are surrounded by a host of British comedy stars old and new. The oldest has to be the ever-reliable Leslie Phillips playing a Lord who brings Hitler to the U.K. as an act of appeasement, but while he made his name in the movies, most of the others are strictly TV talent. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer put in odd, camp performances as footmen, Harry Enfield is an oblivious King George and Miranda Richardson has fun as a randy Eva Braun. It's a nice idea, and the cast are willing enough, but for a spoof the jokes aren't there as what they are sending up isn't quite as exact as they seem to think. There weren't that many recent examples of Hollywoodising of British history, and those that were didn't put in much of an appearance here. Music by Simon Boswell and Rod Melvin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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