Sex Lives of the Potato Men. Carry on Columbus. Fat Slags. Large. Cradle of Fear. Mr Bean’s Holiday. The Boys in Blue. Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis. Shopping. Spice Girls the Movie. Up ‘n’ Under.
Above is a list of British films so bad, so woefully embarrassing, so resoundingly piss-poor in concept and execution that they serve not only to remind us why we have virtually no film industry in this country, but that we also really don’t deserve one. If the God of Film were to descend upon our little nation tomorrow, armed only with that list and he decreed that we were no longer allowed to make films then it would be a deserved statement.
That is not to say that we don’t make good films – we make incredible films when we want to – but for every ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ or ‘London to Brighton’ there is an ‘Evil Aliens’ or ‘Fat Slags: The Movie’ waiting in the wings to fuck things up. It seems to me that we have three different types of movies:
- Big Budget, co-financed with the US movies (‘Notting Hill’, ‘Sunshine’) that largely make their money back in international territories.
- Low budget, lottery funded, arthouse relegated, critically worshipped movies (would Mr Loach and Mr Leigh please stand up) that are seen by relatively few people.
- Sitcom spin offs, TV show and classic film updates or homegrown star vehicles (‘Alien Autopsy’, ‘Magicians’) which make their money back domestically by are never exported abroad.
Which brings us nicely to St Trinians; a film that while it doesn’t quite belong in the rogue’s gallery at the top of the article still manages to be indicative of all that is wrong with British cinema.
Firstly, the production values are so embarrassingly cheap it looks like an ITV drama premiere from 20 years ago. Secondly, it relies on hoary old concepts that we’ve been using since the beginning of time, namely men in drag and cameos from otherwise respectable TV personalities. And thirdly, it takes a British institution from a bygone era and dumps it in the modern world with all the finesse of a dancing drunken father at a teenager’s party.
It makes me weep. It really does. The opening half an hour of this film is so horrifically unfunny and so staggeringly amateur you begin to wonder if you’re accidentally stumbled into a sixth form media studies screening. It appears to have been written by the illiterate, shot by the blind, edited by the limbless, scored by the deaf and released by the idiotic because there is no other explanation for the sheer technical incompetence you are seeing before you. It appears to have been shot on VHS, so lifeless is the photography – and the editing seems to come from the Neighbours school of film-making where continuity and an internal timeframe are unnecessary burdens.
And then it picks up. Well, a little. After the initial horror of Rupert Everett in drag (desperately, desperately unfunny) the film develops some charm and you find yourself ignoring the technical faults – and then Russell Brand appears, then it’s the makeover montage, and the painful Stephen Fry on drugs sequences and by the time Girls Aloud pop up to play their new single you’ve completely forgotten that it’s meant to be a film about individuality and rebellion and are immersed in another advert for Just 17.
Updating it was a big mistake. The pop culture references, the jazzy styles, the cameo by that girl off of the OC all smack of forty-something writers trying to “make it more MTV.” Any anarchy or genuine risk that may have existed in the originals has been replaced by numbing consumerist tendencies and MySpace researched definitions of youth. When they try to be clever it’s with film references and in-jokes that would leave kids bemused and adults patronised.
It’s not the worst British film of all time, just another massively disappointing one. If this is the best that can be done with a potentially great concept like St Trinians then perhaps the Film God is right and we don’t deserve an industry. Shame on us.