The Comedy Vault – The Simpsons Movie.

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

The Simpsons became one of the most successful TV shows of the 90s very quickly. After about a decade, some fans began to feel that the show was beginning to be past its best somewhat, with several comments that the first nine series or thereabouts was the peak, and the quality was now beginning to fall. For several years though there were rumours that there would be a film version.

In 2007 (it’s a surprise to realise how long ago this is now), although this definitely isn’t considered to be a golden era of the show, the film was finally announced as being confirmed, and there was still much anticipation about what direction this would go in. This was an opportunity to go really all out, do something ambitious and big-budget, and squeeze in as many of the best jokes that they still had. vlcsnap-00002

The film starts off fairly normal, with the Simpsons enjoying their regular family life, that mostly consists of Homer having some doughnuts, and also doing something silly and receiving multiple head injuries. But then things start to take a turn. Grampa fears something is coming. A large dome is placed over Springfield, meaning that nobody can get in or out, this lasts for a very long time, and eventually the residents have had enough. vlcsnap-00003

Of course, there are opportunities for the wide range of other characters to appear, including neighbour Ned Flanders, and many more, and just about rises above the “turn up, do your catchphrase, and go away” direction that they could’ve easily gone down. And guest stars Green Day sink into the sea. Homer also makes good friends with a pig who “does whatever a spiderpig does”. And somehow, despite everything, he does come to the rescue. vlcsnap-00004

And there’s a scene with an angry mob. I noticed Disco Stu among them, I always thought that he was supposed to be a one-off character, but he always turns up in the background in crowd scenes, because the show has developed an “everybody knows everyone” style. Maybe they should just do an episode where he follows the Simpsons around and they don’t know why, looking through their window when they’re at home and all that. If they’re struggling for ideas by the 47th series, they can use that idea if they want. vlcsnap-00001

Despite rumours of a sequel, there hasn’t been one yet, the most ambitious episode of The Simpsons since this being the crossover episode with Family Guy. Overall critics felt that this wasn’t too bad and they definitely earned their big moment. There was some merchandise released for the film, including comics and a computer game, and the DVD extras include some deleted scenes and fancy trails.

The Comedy Vault – Airplane II: The Sequel.

Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)

Following on from the big success of Airplane!, it seemed a sensible idea to do a sequel as soon as possible. The writers and directors of the first film were not involved (having gone on to work on the Police Squad! series with Leslie Nielsen, who had really impressed), but most of the cast did return to play their roles again. The plot was rather similar, but this time taken to the extreme, being as surreal and amusing as ever.

This means that Ted Striker is back! And this also means that once again something rather ludicrous is about to happen. Set some time in the near future, Mayflower 1, the first lunar shuttle, is about to travel to the moon, but there are some problems. Ted is still having flashbacks about what happened during the war, the shuttle is about to self-destruct, the computer has developed a mind of its own, everything’s overheated, and none of the engines are working.

Doing it once was tough enough, but can Ted come to the rescue for a second time and prevent a rather horrid disaster somewhere in space? Oh, and there’s a bomb on board too, that doesn’t really help things. I wonder what’ll happen next. After plenty of tension, Ted does manage to save the day, much to the relief of everyone, well done, that was textbook. A very impressed Elaine goes on to marry Ted.

This was one of those films where a lot was happening, with jokes packed in everywhere, and you had to keep an eye on what was happening in the background too. Among the bizarre jokes that I liked were Scraps the dog’s heroics, a parody of Jeopardy! with the original host Art Fleming, and the gaffer in the credits had an additional “what’s a gaffer?”.

I was also amused when Ted walked past a singer, the first time I saw this I didn’t know who he was or what the joke was exactly, but it was so random as the teenagers say (about 15 years ago) that it just made me laugh. Maybe it made sense at the time (it turns out that it was lounge singer Jack Jones’s performance of the theme to The Love Boat), but that’s not important right now.

Airplane II: The Sequel wasn’t as well received as the first film, which was always going to be a tough act to follow, indeed there wasn’t even a gushing “the funniest film ever made!”-type quote on the cover of the DVD box, and it was probably a good idea that they stopped here, but there was still plenty to enjoy. There are no extras as such, apart from scene selection, and the dialogue dubbed into German, how fancy.

Radio Memories – World Of Pub.

World Of Pub (BBC Radio 4, 1998-1999)

I reviewed the TV version of this sitcom a while ago, but this is another one that started out on the radio. It was clear that World Of Pub was something that was going to be a little different from the outset, being described as “EastEnders meets The Simpsons in a cartoon series for the ears”. It seemed that this would be a good one to get into for people who had a more surreal sense of humour.

Brothers Garry and Barry run a pub in the East End, but there are almost never any customers. Their friend (and just about the only regular) Dodgy Phil, is something of a wheeler-dealer, with lots of contacts, and is always thinking of plans that will boost their trade. He insists that he isn’t dodgy, and his ideas will be a big success, people will soon be coming into those doors, and they’ll love what they have to offer.

These plans included saying that the pub was the oldest in the world, trying to be more environmentally friendly (my producer just said, “environmentally friendly, hoorah!”), or celebrating the 500th anniversary of the East End. But these never do work though, and the pub always ends up being destroyed by the end of the episode, yet somehow it is standing again by the start of the next one, only for the cycle to begin again.

There was a lot to like about World Of Pub, with the rather unusual moments, and parodies of various things. The great cast included Peter Serafinowicz, John Thomson, Alistair McGowan, and Phil Cornwell (McGowan and Cornwell also took the opportunity to play various other characters and do some of their impressions, including Cornwell’s take on Michael Caine, that also featured on the TV shows Dead Ringers and Stella Street around this time).

There were eight episodes of World Of Pub in two series, in the first series the episodes were 15 minutes long, and someone must’ve liked it, because in the second series they were extended to 30 minutes. The TV version came across a couple of years later and is also very good, and the radio version is still repeated rather frequently rather late at night on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

The Comedy Vault – The Two Faces Of Mitchell And Webb.

The Two Faces Of Mitchell And Webb (2006)

Having been interested in the career of comedy double-act David Mitchell and Robert Webb, here’s a review of their stage show that was released on DVD. By this point, Mitchell and Webb had become a success, mostly thanks to their sitcom Peep Show, they went on to star in sketch shows on the TV and radio, and they turned some of the most popular characters and highlights into a tour.

The performance on the DVD was recorded at The Grand Opera House in York. It seems that one positive thing about going on tour is that you get a big curtain with a picture of your face on it. One trouble though is that you have to do several fast-paced costume changes behind the scenes, and then make sure that you came back on stage in time and don’t miss your cue, or indeed forget your dialogue, so everything has to be planned and rehearsed carefully, make sure those wigs are at the ready.

The supporting cast were James Bachman and Abigail Burdess (also Webb’s wife). Some of the sketches performed that went down well with the theatre audience included the promotion for endless football coverage, the tramp Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar, Big Talk with Raymond Terrific, the lazy writers, and the game show parodies Numberwang and Hole In The Ring.

And of course there were the snooker commentators, who seemed to be more interested in talking about how fond they were of the young players. They appeared twice, and finished off with their special song, which was well received, much in comparison to when they also performed this sketch live on Comic Relief one year with some snooker stars and died on their backside.

A lot of sketches were packed in, and plenty of them were sharp and witty, that’s why people have described them as their generation’s Fry and Laurie. This tour ran for 44 dates across the UK and got good reviews, but they haven’t done another one since. The only extra is a trail for their film Magicians (that I reviewed recently), although you can also text a number to get fancy Mitchell and Webb ringtones.

The Comedy Vault – Airplane!

Airplane! (1980)

I didn’t plan to review too many American comedy films, but this is such a great one that I wanted to do a piece about it. I don’t want to rant again about quotes on film posters, but when it comes to comedy films, there’s always someone who thinks that it’s the funniest film ever made, or exaggerates how much they liked it and says “I laughed so much that I had a heart attack, and after I was resuscitated on the floor surrounded by my own blood and guts, I laughed some more”.

But this one really does deserve the plaudits that it has received, being packed with jokes, great wordplay, and also featuring some terrifically deadpan performances by veteran actors as the unlikeliest things happened around them. Airplane! was essentially a parody of the series of Airport films, and although there is a plot, it’s mostly a series of set-pieces, and I will try to pick out some of the highlights.

The passengers on this plane aren’t aware that they’re about to have the ride of their life. Ted Striker is an ex-fighter pilot who has to take over the controls of a plane when the crew get food poisoning. He begins to get flashbacks from the war and isn’t sure if he is up to the task. He has to get on with it though. Everyone is depending on him, and the tension begins to mount.

What he has to do is just like that round on The Krypton Factor, only more intense. But he manages to push all the right buttons at the right time (with a little help from his inflatable friend Otto), and save the day, hugely impressing stewardess Elaine. They won’t forget that in a hurry! The jokes do come thick and fast, and they really are terrific. Airplane! was a big success with critics, and two years later there was a sequel (called The Sequel), and I’ll review that one soon too.

Scenes from Airplane! have also often been parodied in Family Guy, and rather oddly some dialogue was sampled in the late-80s dance classic “Break 4 Love” by Raze. The team behind this film would also go on to make the acclaimed sitcom Police Squad!, and The Naked Gun trilogy, featuring Leslie Nielsen, who was one of the stars of this one. The DVD extras are a trail and a commentary from the directors.

The Comedy Vault – Paul.

Paul (2011)

It’s time to look back at yet another film starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, although this one isn’t the final part of “The Cornetto Trilogy” (that’s The World’s End, and I’ll review that one soon too). This one (also written by Pegg and Frost) centred around aliens, and took that idea to the extreme. Graeme and Clive are friends who are about to go on the roadtrip of their life.

They are in America, and they attend a comic convention (where if you turn up dressed as a robot you get a big cheer), they are interested in the variety of characters, and their ambition is to create a successful one themselves. They then go off to various places where it was reported that aliens have landed, and they want to believe that such things exist. Will they run into one themselves?

And would you believe, they really do run into an alien. Once again, they have the rather British attitude of being all rather surprised by this, rather than realising how extraordinary this all is. Well you don’t see that every day do you, everything is much bigger in America. 60 years ago, a spaceship crashed, but the alien is still around, and on the run trying to avoid capture. Will he ever be able to go home?

Not only is Paul an alien, but he also happens to rudest one around, with something of an attitude (and he was computer-generated rather than being a puppet or anything like that). He really did come from somewhere else. Well it’s just Graeme and Clive’s luck. They take him on to their van, but they must get some Snapple and Doritos first. Once they’ve done that, it’s time to get going.

Paul has got a green face and big eyes, just like what people think aliens look like, and that’s why. By the end, Paul is bringing people back to life, and feeling that his work is finally done, he goes off on his spaceship, but not before some cars blow up for no particular reason, well you’ve always got to have some action in these type of films. Graeme and Clive finally finish their comic, and when they attend the conventions now, they’re the ones that people want to meet!

Paul was another film that went down well with critics, as Pegg and Frost continued to build on the success of Hot Fuzz and the like with another amusing and creative piece of work. There are so many extras, that the DVD was released on two discs. These include an extended version of the film, along with “Simon’s Silly Faces”, how the alien was created, and a making of, and there was also a soundtrack released.

The Comedy Vault – Absolutely Fabulous The Movie.

Absolutely Fabulous The Movie (2016)

In the 70s or thereabouts, a lot of successful British sitcoms went on to have a film spin-off version made, but this stopped after a while. There haven’t been too many examples of this in more recent years, but this is one that made the jump to the big screen. Absolutely Fabulous launched on BBC2 in 1992, and starred Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.

There was much anticipation about what direction this film would go in, and this reminds me of the odd thing about sitcoms. As these characters are being played, time passes for real, but just like in comics, this never seems to happen in sitcoms. Everyone always acts the same, the circle of friends is never changed, nobody ages, nobody learns.

Can Edina and Patsy still carry on with their drunken debauchery that caused such a stir with viewers first time round without anyone realising it’s almost 25 years later? Is Edina’s daughter Saffron still at school? Is Bubble still not making sense? Edina still works in PR, what she doesn’t know about fashion isn’t worth knowing, and she is fairly sure that she is friends with all the big stars.

This means that there are endless guest appearances, including Kate Moss, because they would be sure that Kate Moss wouldn’t turn such a thing down, and then everyone can go “ooh look it’s Kate Moss, how fabulous”, and “oh, is that that woman off that thing? It is!”. Edina and Kate are good friends, not like you. But then there is a rather unfortunate incident that leads to a media storm (one of the modern-day things that is beyond trying to parody really).

Edina and Patsy decide to go off to the French Riviera while everything cools off. Maybe they could escape from this scandal and start a new life here. Edina carries on trying to hang out with all of the hot dudes who are very rich, and keeping up with all of the latest trends. They can open a bottle of champagne here, there’s always got to be a bottle of champagne on the go.

One sign that proves that this film was made in more recent years are the references to things like downloading the latest podcasts to FaceSpace, or whoever it is you say it. Just when Edina and Saffron decide to have a heart-to-heart and it still starts to get a little soppy, Kate is tracked down, much to everyone’s relief, and Edina and Kate go off and have some champagne to celebrate. Oh, and Patsy marries an old man.

I am also reminded about film posters (rant no. 2 coming…). There are so many critics nowadays that plenty of positive reviews can be found, but I do tire of the rather desperate ones that want to get noticed and consist of “if you don’t think that this is the greatest film ever made, then you’re a moron”. Having said that, this one was fairly well received. Extras include deleted scenes and outtakes, along with a look at all of that fancy fashion.

The Comedy Vault – Bean The Ultimate Disaster Movie.

Bean The Ultimate Disaster Movie (1997)

As you should know by now, I am a fan of the comedy character Mr Bean, as played by Rowan Atkinson, putting his “rubber-faced funnyman” talents to the extreme. After appearing in 14 TV episodes that were very successful, it was decided that it was time for this character to bumble on to the big screen. The director was Atkinson’s old Not The Nine O’Clock News mate Mel Smith.

Now as we know of course, Mr Bean is a man of few words, so how could he be placed into a film? Well there was a rather ambitious idea. Mr Bean works at the National Gallery Of London. He is rather useless though, so the staff put a plan together to try and get rid of him… he’ll be off to America! But is our loss America’s gain? An art gallery has bought “Whistler’s Mother”, which they describe as the greatest American picture ever, as they aren’t very modest. vlcsnap-00007

The gallery insist that he is a scholar of great weight and substance, but our hero gets into a pickle even by his own standards, as everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. Mr Bean goes to live with David Langley who works at the gallery, as they prepare for the big moment, and he isn’t ready for the bizarre situations he is going to be put in. The rest of his family almost instantly pack their bags and move out, which shows what they think of all this. vlcsnap-00010

It’s fair to say that he struggles to deal with American culture, and his rather eccentric ways stand out. Whilst admiring the picture, Mr Bean makes something of a mess of it, and if anyone discovers this there’ll be big trouble. He manages to hatch a plan though, and hopes that everything will work out. When it’s time to unveil the picture, it’s a very important occasion, even Burt Reynolds turned up and everything. vlcsnap-00008

The picture is now back to its original self, and Mr Bean gives a rousing speech how lovely he thinks it is. Everyone is very pleased, it’s $50 million well spent, but it seemingly cost David his marriage. By the end, Mr Bean is bringing people back to life and rescuing David’s marriage, despite everything he has become a friend. His philosophy on life seems to be when people go up to him and say “you can’t just…”, he does. vlcsnap-00009

Bean The Ultimate Disaster Movie was something of a success, satisfying the worldwide fanbase, even if critics were less impressed. The DVD contains few extras though, with an episode of the cartoon version, plus a quick look behind the scenes, and one of the songs from the soundtrack was also a Top Ten hit. About a decade later, Mr Bean returned to the big screen when he went off on holiday and caused havoc again, and I’ll review that one soon too.

The Comedy Vault – Run Fat Boy Run.

Run Fat Boy Run (2007)

This is yet another film that stars Simon Pegg, you might be beginning to think that I am mildly obsessed with his career, but after enjoying his TV comedy series including Big Train and Spaced, it’s been good to follow his more recent success in films. This one isn’t part of The Cornetto Trilogy though, Nick Frost is nowhere to be seen!

One thing that is notable about Run Fat Boy Run is that it was the directorial debut of David Schwimmer, best known for Friends of course, although that’s a sitcom that I have never watched that much myself. Pegg starred as Dennis Doyle (wasn’t that the name of a character in Night And Day?). Five years ago he was unable to go through with his wedding, leaving his pregnant fiancĂ©e Libby stranded. vlcsnap-00008

Now he is determined to get her and his son back and try again, he really would do anything. Libby is now going out with Wilt (Hank Azaria of The Simpsons fame), an American who thinks rather a lot of himself, and he is something of a high-flyer, Dennis is the opposite. After Wilt announces he will run a marathon, Dennis decides to as well, even though he has no experience in long-distance running, to try and prove himself. 26 miles? Is that all? vlcsnap-00006

Dennis has decided not to run away from his troubles any more, because as a wise person once said, running away only wears out your shoes. He now has to get busy training, encouraged by his friend Gordon, and there’s no time to lose. He isn’t going to be intimidated by any of this, and gets his little shorts on. And of course The Fratellis are on the soundtrack, I think that it was compulsory that they were featured on every film that was released in this year. vlcsnap-00009

Dennis has got to run, and hopes that he doesn’t hit the wall. His only hope to finish is to have rocket boosters in his trainers. When the race starts, he goes get into some trouble, his knees have gone all scabby, he’s got a blister, and he’s also got a pimple rubbing in an awkward area. But he goes on, finding determination that he never knew he had, and he does indeed complete the race. It only took him 14 hours, he was shattered. Wilt has to admit defeat as Libby is impressed by his heroics. vlcsnap-00010

Another thing that attracted to Run Fat Boy Run is that some of this was made not too far from where I live, and I recognised some places. There was also a guest appearance from David Walliams as a cake enthusiast. Extras include deleted scenes and outtakes. Although there were rather mixed reviews, it didn’t stop Pegg from continuing the impressive ascent of his film career.

The Comedy Vault – The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse.

The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse (2005)

The League Of Gentlemen are the comedy group that have had a lot of success. They had a series on the radio (that I plan to review soon), and they have also done several tours, and they went on to have a TV series that did well and launched several catchphrases. So it seemed that the next logical step was to feature their variety of characters in a film, which would have a horror twist.

Royston Vasey had become known as the village that featured some rather unusual people, who are all played by the cast, and the chance to see the likes of Tubbs and Mr Chinnery on the big screen was too good an opportunity to miss. The film begins with the only non-performing member of the team running into some rather nasty trouble, and this is a sign of things to come. vlcsnap-00006

Fears are beginning to grow at the village, because it has been written that something rather horrible is about to happen. Can these people put their differences aside and survive? The film began to go off in a rather odd “the characters realise that they are in a film” direction, with the writers planning to end the project, meaning that they would cease to exist. vlcsnap-00007

This means that they will have to leave their village and track them down, so first they have to deal with entering the city, hoping to encounter the writers and make them change their mind. They haven’t time to see the sights though, they must act quickly. Then Herr Lipp gets mixed up with Steve Pemberton who plays that character, which leads to all sorts of confusion. They then find the project that they are working on and make some changes to the script. vlcsnap-00008

This is set in 17th century Britain, and we see some of this played out, making this almost two films in one. This leads to the big showdown, and if a few heads have to explode to persuade the writers that they should continue, along with a big green thing haunting everyone, then that’s the price they’ll have to pay. There is also a guest appearance from Simon Pegg that is even shorter than in The Parole Officer. vlcsnap-00010

The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse did very well with critics, with one even admitting it made them laugh until they did a wee. “Precious Things” (as they are called) include a making of, outtakes, and a gallery. and a soundtrack was released too. And despite of all this, many years later, they did finally reunite to make some more TV episodes, and shout “this is a local shop!” at everyone just one final time.