13 April 2004 | bob the moo
It is reasonably amusing but is eventually just messy and not funny
January 1998. Tamworth, England. As the farmer delivers his three pigs to the local slaughter house, a mistake is made and two of the three make a break for freedom. Butch and Sundance evade the law and come across a group of hippies asleep, camping in the woods. After eating some of the hippies', ahem, herbs the duo receive a question from a magical wild boar and they set off cross country. Once the media gets hold of it, the hunt becomes a national obsession - bringing the pig hating Wolf onto the scene.
This was screened as an hour long BBC special on Easter Monday 2004 and I was curious enough to give it a go. I knew that the very basic truth of the situation is that two pigs got away from their owners for a day or two and then were caught. And that's it. However it says more about our lives (or rather what the tabloids think the public want) that the media blew it up into a massive story. So it is not too big a leap for writer Mercurio to take the story even further and fictionalise even more of it. Having seen Babe and loved it, I'm not against this sort of thing but it is a problem that this film just isn't fun enough to do the job.
What I had hoped for was a comic tale that is fanciful enough for kids but also witty and sharp enough for adults. Sadly that didn't happen - instead the film tries to open it out into more of a fantasy drama, albeit with the odd laugh here and there. The film occasionally embraces wild fantasy to the point that it is really imaginative but most of the time the touches don't work. The drama really doesn't work at all as, without humour, it just comes across as silly. The film makes a few points about media and the hypocrisy about eating meat but yet caring for `da widdy animals' but these don't really work either simply because I couldn't tell if it was being sincere or not.
The cast aren't that hot either, although the script doesn't give them much to work with. Boyd and Pierson are pretty bland (although the latter is cute) but it was the pig's I was more let down by. I was surprised how little they used them to get laughs - the animatronics was average but good enough for this. The lines should have been much sharper but they weren't. Lucy Davis is one of them and it gave me hope (Office, Shaun Of The Dead) but both she and her co-pig had awful accents that put me off! Small roles from Langham, Sayle and Sessions. Brian Blessed is unmistakable and lends his voice to an effect more convincing than that terrible thing in Phantom Menace! Whately was a key character but all he does is ham it up rather badly (sorry - I tried to write this review without a pun, but I couldn't do it!). He should have been a pantomime villain who was fun to hate but he wasn't - he just lacked bite somehow.
Overall, I wanted to really like this - it's a Bank Holiday, it's a kid friendly comedy with great potential for imaginative jokes and dialogue (a la Chicken Run) but all this did was mess things up with an unsure script and some lacklustre performances from key players. The attempts to use movie references are lazy, obvious and unfunny - the Jaws one is OK but the Fight Club bit is just useless. Lucy Davis has worked with Simon Pegg so she knows what a great, witty and clever script looks like but she made a mistake with this one - and so did I.