The new trend is to rewrite it. Deadline’s Tim Adler featured another trailer, presumably for English audiences, for “Jackboots Over Whitehalll,” but this one explains what’s going on so that even we dumb Americans can understand it.
So, I understand that this is being touted as “Team America” meets “Inglourious Basterds.” I’d throw in “Robot Chicken” as well. Except, of course that all of those were funny. And while “Team America” and “Robot Chicken” revel in their primitive technology which often makes the jokes all the funnier, here, the characters seem completely inert. I’m frankly surprised this is getting a theatrical in the U.K. or any first world nation. I know British humor doesn’t always translate, even for someone like me who adores Monty Python and British cinema in general. This just looks kind of weak.
One fun casting note. The voice of Winston Churchill is provided by one of my favorite British character actors, Timothy Spall, who is also playing Churchill in “The King’s Speech,” which I highlighted yesterday.
Very few shows cram as many laughs into as few minutes as “Robot Chicken” manages on a weekly basis, so when Adult Swim announced the latest stop-motion project from two of the show’s creators – Matt Senreich and Tom Root – it looked like the late-night network had another hit on its hands. But despite pooling the talent of several “Robot Chicken” all-stars (including Seth Green and Breckin Meyer), “Titan Maximum” falls flat on its embarrassingly unfunny face. Unlike the sketch comedy format of its predecessor, “Titan Maximum” features a contained narrative about a group of heroes called the Titan Force Five that pilot the titular robot in order to protect Earth from a never-ending onslaught of danger. It’s essentially a parody of every giant robot show ever made – although as a child of the 80s, it’s hard to compare it to anything other than “Voltron” due to the color-coded cast of characters.
But while the show shares the same comedic flavor of “Robot Chicken,” it’s just not as funny in an extended format. Unable to draw on decades of pop culture, the writers are forced to rely on the interactions between its characters, which are pretty one-dimensional. Heck, one of the newest recruits is a monkey who doesn’t even speak, and although it’s funny the first couple times they cut to him for a reaction shot, the gag get old really quick. Meyer and Green both have fun in their respective roles as the narcissistic team leader of Titan Force Five and his former right-hand man turned adversary, but the rest of the cast is more annoying than anything else. At least Warner Bros. was kind enough to load up the DVD release with lots of extras – including commentaries on all nine episodes, cast and crew interviews, production featurettes and more – because it would have been hard to even recommend to fans of the show if they hadn’t.
Every year about this time, my thoughts turn to a movie that is actually not very well made. Director Peter H. Hunt apparently had no clue how to turn “1776” from a Broadway musical into a movie back in 1972, but I still love the thing. An incredibly sharp, if still very theatrical, script by original writer Peter Stone (1974’s “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3”) and really fun performances seal the deal, even if the director can’t. Besides, if the Founding Fathers were great, how much greater would they be singing and dancing their way to freedom from English tyranny? It’s like the “John Adams” miniseries only funnier and with a quasi-18th century beat. Are you with me? Are you??? Well, take a look, anyway.
If you live in the Los Angeles area and this seems like your thing, it just so happens that the American Cinematheque is screening the restored version of the film tonight at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, with director Hunt in attendance (don’t tell him what I said). However, if it’s not your thing — and I understand that may be the case — perhaps you’d prefer a more, er, manly retelling of how our nation came to be.