Mindhorn is an affectionate pastiche of spoof sleuths like Austin Powers that falls a little flat at times. Feeling like an elongated sketch rather than the basis for a solid screenplay, writer and star Julian Barratt has created an original character without giving him the opportunity to flourish.
This decade-specific spoof has everything going for it. Spot on A-list cameos combined with proven comedy talent in key roles. Name checking everything from Bergerac to The Six Million Dollar Man by way of Magnum P.I. if he lived in the Isle of Man, Mindhorn almost hits the spot. Brainchild of Julian Barratt, both star and co-writer, this affectionate pastiche is Austin Powers without the film star headliner.
Purposely photographed like an Eighties television show Barratt and love interest Essie Davis play everything straight. Mindhorn alter ego Richard Thorncroft is a washed up actor peddling thermal socks and male girdles. Out of condition, over the hill and clinging onto his glory days, Barratt gives his character knowing moments of pathos which somehow fail to hit home. Trapped in the past while others have moved on and flourished, this is essentially Mindhorn’s only running joke.
Being a chauvinist, out of touch with the wider world and having an overgrown sense of his own talent is where that joke runs dry. Unlike Steve Coogan who made an indelible character out of Alan Partridge using similar tactics, his appearance here only acts as a constant reminder of everything Mindhorn fails to achieve. That he also sounds like a Simon Pegg television announcer does the character no favours either. Meaning that Thorncroft is distracting without being engaging bringing the comedy quota down.
Barratt’s committed performance and Coogan’s underwritten Peter Eastman are enjoyable, but its Richard McCabe’s creepy Scottish manager and Simon Farnby’s stunt double Clive who steal the film. Looking like Ricky Tomlinson and sounding like a poor man’s Goldmember, one inhabits like Jim Royale while the other parades around in shorts doing gardening with a ridiculous accent. There should be no reason why these elements fail to work combined with the quality of cameos on display, yet that sense of not quite funny lingers throughout.
If we were being honest Mindhorn is a genuinely funny film which just fails to translate into actual comedy. Feeling like an elongated sketch rather than the basis for a solid screenplay, Barratt has honestly created an original character without giving him the opportunity to flourish. Produced in part by Ridley Scott’s production company Scott Free amongst others, you expect an element of refined quality on display. Instead you get a film which is half way between Austin Powers and Alan Partridge, without the situational humour and sense that all involved know this should be funny. Which is fatal as self-awareness never thrived in a comedy situation.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Sean Foley
Written by: Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby
Starring: Julian Barratt, Essie Davis, Kenneth Branagh, Andrea Riseborough, Steve Coogan
Released: 2016 / Genre: Spoof/Comedy
Country: UK / IMDB
Top 10 Films reviewed Mindhorn on DVD. The film is released on DVD 7 Blu-ray on September 4.