Tom Bennett

Mascots

26/11/16

This latest film from Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel) takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of professional mascots, those stalwart individuals who don outlandish costumes and help to promote football teams/organisations/products around the world, usually by prancing about to a musical backing.  This is a Netflix original, but Guest’s methods seem to be largely unchanged from the likes of earlier films, Best In Show and A Mighty Wind. Like so many of his ‘mockumentaries’ this follows a bunch of random characters as they prepare themselves for the equivalent of their Oscars, the Fluffies, cutting effortlessly from scene to scene as the action unfolds.

The Mascots themselves include: young Englishman, Owen Golly Jr. (Tom Bennett), carrying on a family tradition as football mascot, Sid the Hedgehog, under the baleful glare of his dad, who formerly played the role; Mike and Mindy Murray (Zach Woods and Sarah Baker), a middle-aged couple desperately trying to rock their double act despite the fact that their marriage is falling apart; and art-obsessed Cindi Babineaux (Parker Posey), whose armadillo character seems aimed at an entirely different audience. And, of course, the judges and organisers prove to be a thorny bunch, most of them coming to the competition with their own hidden agendas. Guest himself performs a cameo as Corky St Clair, a pretentious dance trainer helping to put Cindi through her paces. British comic Kerry Godliman also makes an appearance as Owen’s delightful and supportive wife – making them pretty much the only non-dysfunctional couple in the entire movie.

This is wry, whimsical stuff, not exactly laugh-out-loud funny, but nicely judged and constantly amusing. It’s evident just how many artists – from Ricky Gervais to Larry David – have taken inspiration from the Spinal Tap model, which –  back in 1984 – was one of the first feature films to venture down the spoof documentary trail.

Mascots is right there on Netflix, and, if you’re already a customer, you’d be crazy not to check it out.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

 

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Love & Friendship

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29/05/16

Cameo, Edinburgh

Love & Friendship is an amalgamation of two early novellas (Lady Susan and Love and Freindship [sic]), penned by the esteemed Jane Austen when she was still in her teens. It’s a witty, acerbic tale, and seems true to the spirit of this oft-misunderstood writer in a way that many screen adaptations of her work do not. Romance, here, is never really the point; we don’t really care who marries whom. Instead, this is a satire: a deliciously wry examination of how people manipulate social mores.

Kate Beckinsale, as Lady Susan, is superbly cast. She is undoubtedly a venal fiend, and yet we root for her because… well, why not? She’s attractively rebellious and unrepentant in her selfishness, and – if some men are idiotic enough to fall for her games – then really, more fool them.

Most engagingly foolish of all is Tom Bennett’s James Martin, an affable buffoon, whose lack of intelligence is more than compensated by the size of his estate. Bennett milks his role’s comic potential, clearly relishing the chance to ask, in all seriousness, which of the twelve commandments he is allowed to break.

Oh, it’s a slight film all right, like Austen’s books,”a little bit (two inches wide) of ivory” – but it’s crammed full with such verve and vivacity that it’s hard to think of a more engaging way to spend an afternoon. Especially when we’re in the delightful environs of Edinburgh’s oldest and most loved cinema, the superb Cameo, where we’ve recently become members.

4.1 stars

Susan Singfield