Coming from the same group of people that created Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Christmas rock opera AD/BC and The Mighty Boosh, there was a fairly solid set of expectations going into Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby’s Mindhorn.
To say it didn’t disappoint in these is an understatement as the story, in an echo of Darkplace, focusses on a less than successful vintage television show.
Here though, rather than just showing that programme, Mindhorn takes this and, through a murder mystery maguffin on the Isle of Man, brings the character into the real world, through the prism of now washed up actor Richard Thorncroft (Barratt).
Really, the plot is a bit of a sideshow to creating a series of scenes that see Thorncroft do his best to reboot his career with the aid (or lack there of) of a series of side characters from the relatively normal, former love interest and co-star turned local TV journalist Patricia Deville (Essie Davis), to the twisted caricature PR emprasario Geoffrey Moncrief (Richard McCabe) and the apparent villain to Mindhorn’s super heroic detective, The Kestrel (Russel Tovey on excellently bizarre form).This all runs very close to the line of not working at all, but, in the hands of so many performers and creators well versed in this kind of flight of fancy, it is a hilarious ride of a film.
Barratt in particular puts in a great turn as Thorncroft/Mindhorn that makes what could be a genuinely horrible character engaging and entertaining, even if we never really care too much if he ends up rebooting his career – but then I’m not sure that’s ever the intention.
The rest of the supporting cast all do an admirable job too, giving their all despite some impressively bizarre scenes that you feel some actors might not be able to deliver with enough of a straight face.
The setting and references may be where the film hits a roadblock in its appeal. While similar in some ways to the likes of The Naked Gun, which had a universal appeal, this relies on references to standards of 80s British TV maybe a little too much.
To me, comments about Bergerac, John Nettles, Wogan and more, make perfect sense, but I can only imagine that on an audience younger or outside the UK they may be lost.The setting of the Isle of Man may also cause the same problem. While it’s easy to recognise the caricature of the place presented in Mindhorn, it is a very British feeling locale I’d expect to find in a television sitcom rather than a film (though that didn’t harm Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz).
In the end though Mindhorn is a great fun film that, while it’s unlikely to bec e to modern classic, features a couple of great performances and comes with a sense of uncynical fun in its ridiculousness that is hard to fault.