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Churchill: The Hollywood Years (15)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary. Making of documentary. Churchill mockumentary. Deleted scenes. Photo gallery. Alternative beginning. Theatrical trailer. TV spots.

IT'S difficult to imagine a more wretched viewing experience than Churchill: The Hollywood Years, given the whole misguided concept from start to finish.

Devised as a spoof on 'the American way of rewriting and re-devising history', following films such as U-571 and Pearl Harbor, the film attempts to 're-imagine' what might happen if Winston Churchill turned out to be an American, and won the Second World War almost single-handedly.

But instead of being a sharp and incisive dig at Hollywood, the film becomes a painfully embarrassing series of unfunny set pieces that pretty much squanders the talents of just about everyone involved.

The film picks up as American GI, Churchill (Christian Slater), returns to London from fighting on the shores of Europe, to try and drum up support for the war against the Third Reich.

What he finds instead is a Britain populated by baffoons, such as King George (Harry Enfield), who has no time to consider the foibles of war, and his devious servant, Lord W'ruff (Leslie Phillips), who would far rather strike a deal with Hitler (Anthony Sher) to form an alliance with the Nazis. Only Princess Elizabeth (Neve Campbell) has the instinct for battle, teaming up with Churchill and Eisenhower (Chris Jarman) to do what she can to help the war effort.

Hence, while Churchill and co run about shooting the Germans on the one hand, Lord W'ruff and party are smuggling Hitler and his cronies into Buckingham Palace via the backdoor, in a ludicrous bid at changing history.

Written and directed by Peter Richardson, Churchill: The Hollywood Years is clearly intended to be as influential a comedy as his Comic Strip work (such as The Strike) in the late 80s, thanks to the impressive cast, which includes a veritable who's who of British comedy (Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Rik Mayall, Mackenzie Crook, etc).

Instead, it probably rates as one of the worst movies of the year which borders on being offensive. Nothing about it works - not even the decision to cut out the film within a film format and reduce it by about 20 minutes.

The jokes make TV's 'Allo 'Allo seem like a masterpiece of comic timing, while the acting is so hammy (probably deliberately) as to be diverting, with the majority of the central performers making complete fools of themselves in the process.

Had it stuck with being a send-up of the Hollywood penchant for altering history to suit its own ends, the film might at least have had something relevant to say, but its decision to play it like a 'what if' scenario merely renders it incomprehensible and pointless, and as bad, if not worse, than many of the blockbusters it's supposed to be mocking.

For instance, irony is supposed to be derived from the fact that a Jewish actor is playing Hitler, while comedy is supposed to be gleaned from a hip-hop song proclaiming that 'Hitler has only got one ball'.

In real life, Churchill made his two-fingered V for victory salute something of an iconic image, yet the only two-fingered salute audiences will want to give this film is something that means quite the opposite. It deserves to sink without trace at the box office.

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