out of Five
Running time: 90
Inventive, twisted and frequently hilarious, this is an enjoyable comedy that will appeal to both fans and newcomers to the series.
There is a rich tradition of British sitcoms making the transition to the big screen, although those films usually involved the casts of, say, Are You Being Served? or On The Buses decamping to the Costa del Sol for an hour and a half.
With The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, however, the film-makers have mixed The Wicker Man with a dash of Monty Python and a soupcon of Charlie Kaufman and the result is a fast-paced, frequently inventive comedy that will appeal to fans and newcomers alike.
All is not well in the fictional town of Royston Vasey. The end of the world is nigh and the “locals” aren’t too happy about it, particularly when they discover that the reason their world is ending is because their creators (Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Michael Sheen, playing Jeremy Dyson) have stopped writing the show.
In order to save their town, three of the locals – mad butcher and purveyor of “special stuff” Hilary Briss (Gatiss), heavily-accented suggestive German Herr Lipp (Pemberton) and frustrated businessman Geoff Tipps (Shearsmith) – travel through a portal and arrive in our world, hoping to kidnap the League and force them to do their bidding.
However, things get complicated when Geoff reads their new script and finds himself trapped inside a 17th century demonic thriller, while Herr Lipp gets a taste for ‘real’ life when he has to impersonate the real Steve Pemberton…
In different hands, this could have been an out-and-out disaster that was little more than an exercise in self-indulgence. However, the central conceit works brilliantly and the film is jam-packed with clever dialogue, great one-liners, terrible puns and hilarious visual gags.
The criss-crossing between different worlds is surprisingly easy to follow and the film builds towards a brilliantly absurd climax. There’s even a Ray Harryhausen-inspired homunculus, the punchline to a splendid running gag.
Inevitably the structure of the film means that many series favourites get left behind, which may disappoint fans of the show. It’s unlikely that Geoff or Briss are anyone’s favourite characters, though the film helpfully illustrates the fact that Edward, Tubbs and Papa Lazarou would be less likely to blend in in the “real” world and other favourites such as Pauline or rubbish vet Mr Chinnery do at least make small appearances.
The performances are superb – Reece Shearsmith in particular seems to enjoy sending up his real-life persona more than the others and Pemberton somehow manages to turn the deeply creepy Herr Lipp into a sympathetic character.
There’s also great support from the likes of David Warner, Bernard Hill, Victoria Wood and Emily Woof, as well as blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos from Simon Pegg and Peter Kay.
In short, The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse is well worth seeing, particularly if you’re a fan of the series. It’s true that not all the gags work, but they come so thick and fast that you’re pretty much assured of a good laugh every few minutes and it’s hard to think of another recent British comedy with that high a gag rate. Recommended.