Mike Bassett: England Manager (15)

Review by Toby Gregory


THIS British comedy follows the trials and tribulations of the English football team's quest to succeed in the Brazilian World Cup, viewed from the eyes of the England manager, Mike Bassett, played by Ricky Tomlinson (The Royle Family, Preaching to The Perverted).

The mock documentary style in which it was filmed appears innovative and possibly unique until one starts to draw comparisons between this and the docu-soap of Graham Taylor's ill-fated World Cup campaign in 1994. Having seen both it becomes hard to tell them apart and for those who haven't, it's not rocket science to guess the plot.

Also, with England's recent upturn in fortunes you can't help but feel that the storyline is a little outdated. However, if there was ever a time that a football film might succeed it must be now with the forthcoming World Cup just around the corner. What's even more disappointing is that when stripped to its bare bones even the comic element of this `hilarious British comedy' fails to add anything.

The gags are hideously repetitive and because they not particularly funny in the first place, they become tiresome. The writers sought to avoid making the audience, `spend their time trying to find where the next joke has been put in' but went too far making them so obvious. This left me with the feeling that I was watching the adult version of Saturday morning television.

That said, there are positive points and one of the strengths of this movie and definitely something that keeps it palatable is the casting of the lead roles and the interesting cameos thrown in for good measure. Tomlinson really gets into his role as Bassett, allowing the audience to feel affinity for an unlikely character. The on-screen chemistry between him and Amanda Redman, who plays his wife, Karine, also helps to create a real sense of tension as their marriage falls apart.

The fresh faces in the form of cameo roles from Pele, Atomic Kitten and Gabby Yorath help bring life to a flagging film and make a welcome change to the repetitive droll. Yet even they cannot save the damage which has already been done. Considering the concept for this film was first mooted in 1984, the end result is a crying shame. It's too young for its target audience and with a 15 classification, too old for those who might enjoy it most.