29 October 2004 | bob the moo
An imperfect but enjoyable film that has a good yarn at its core (despite not being totally convincing) as well as two good leads and a strong collection of support actors
When Sir Roger Tichborne is lost at sea he is feared dead but his mother believes him alive and living in Australia. Sending her youngest son and butler (Andrew Bogle) to Australia to find him, plans are ruined when her son drinks himself to dead with his newfound freedom. When Bogle appeals for money for the passage home he finds himself forgotten and asked to 'start a new life'. With this in mind, Bogle sets out to find a ringer for Roger Tichborne and return to claim (and share) his part in the estate. With the long sea voyage to prepare, Bogle applies the extra work needed to turn his impostor into the real deal, but will they be able to carry it off?
With an intriguing premise from the very start, this film delivers an occasionally comic story that is enjoyable if a little forced. The plot is fairly ordinary from the start but still is interesting enough to engage. If anything it is in the later stages where it pushes into an out of the ordinary plot that it becomes a bit exaggerated and not as enjoyable as a result but by that point I was into the story enough to stick with it. It has a certain amount of humour but it is more gently amusing rather than hilariously funny and it is this that helps the drama play out pretty well. This is not to suggest it is a great film because it isn't that great but it is lively enough to be enjoyable.
The characters are a fair part of this because the main two are the focus of the film and the source of both drama and comedy. Bogle is a good character who is delivered with dry wit by the actor John Kani. His delivery can often seem lacking in life but for my money it was well pitched to be the firm base of the film. Pugh has a much more lively character and plays it well drawing out the comic side of the material well. He manages with the more obvious pratfalls as well as the more serious side of the film. These two are the heart of the film and they deliver well enough to cover the weaknesses in the material, but it can only help to have a colourful support cast that includes small roles and cameos for a hatful of famous faces ranging from Stephen Fry, John Gielgud, Robert Hardy, Dudley Sutton right down to the rather more unusual finds of Anita Dobson.
Overall this is an enjoyable and engaging little story that manages to cover up the fact that it never really convinces when it needs to. The story has nice comic touches to it as well as having enough in the way of drama to it to keep the interest. The delivery from the lead two is nicely done despite some reservations and the support cast are as good as one would expect from those involved.