FILM REVIEW Jackboots On Whitehall

Team America meets Dad’s Army

15 * 93 mins * 8 October 2010
Directors: Ed and Rory McHenry
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rosamund Pike, Timothy Spall, Alan Cumming, Tom Wilkinson

Like Team America: World Police, Jackboots On Whitehall tips its hat to Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation, also employing Thunderbirds-style puppets. However, it boasts none of the savage wit of Trey Parker’s Iraq War satire – or indeed the charm of Nick Park’s endearing claymations.

Set in an alternate timeline where the German army invades Britain after Allied Forces fall at Dunkirk in 1940, it was originally conceived as a Born On The Fourth Of July-inspired Vietnam War spoof. But after deciding to parody something closer to home, the brothers turned their attention to the World War 2.

At the heart of the story is Chris (Ewan McGregor), an adopted farm worker who is inexplicably not allowed to join the army because his hands are too big. Along with the likes of sweetheart Daisy (Rosamund Pike), he journeys to London, where he saves Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall) from the advancing Germans. Everyone then retreats to Hadrian’s Wall, where Chris enlists the help of the fearsome blue-painted Scots after discovering that he actually hails from north of the border himself. Some good Braveheart-influenced laughs are raised over how the tartan hordes appear to be led by an Aussie, and the film would have been much sharper with more of this postmodern humour.

Ranging from the Dover coast to Trafalgar Square, the numerous animated backgrounds are impressive but the puppets’ voices often seem out of synch, despite CGI being used to tighten up the facial expressions.

But the film’s real undoing is the weak script. Dominated by tired racial stereotypes, ranging from Sanjeev Bhaskar’s Punjabi guard Rupee to various OTT Nazis including Goering (Richard Griffiths), Goebbels (Tom Wilkinson) and Hitler (Alan Cumming), it’s as if the McHenry brothers have watched too many old episodes of ‘Allo ‘Allo. A valiant effort, then, that unfortunately falls flat.

Stephen Jewell