Long before this movie had even came about I was a huge fan of the popular and extremely dark humoured BBC TV series 'The League of Gentlemen'. And so of course I went into the theatre with high hopes of sick humour, great acting, and an intelligently constructed plot. And I wasn't disappointed.
I had previously read and had watched interviews with the League about the general premise of the movie beforehand and so wasn't totally surprised by what was unravelling before my eyes. To get you all up to speed with the madness - A small group of characters from Royston Vasey (the fictional village where a large community of bizarre characters reside) find themselves in the middle of the near destruction of their beloved Vasey. They find a doorway in their local church into the 'real' world and try to stop their creators (the League) from writing their new non-Royston Vasey based script. Confused - you may well be.
Series regulars, at least from the first couple of series, Hilary Briss (a notorious criminal butcher causing a strain of nosebleeds through the village years earlier from the consumption of his 'special meat'), homosexual icon Herr Wolf Lipp and the beleaguered underachiever Geoff Tipps visit the 'real' world in search of the League.
Steve, Mark and Reece, as usual, take on the difficult task of convincingly portraying several various characters from the show at any one time. And this time round even in the same scene with the use of some clever split screen action (something which hasn't been commonly utilised in the original series). And as usual the acting is not only fantastic but always blends together the comedic elements with some great responsive and genuinely touching moments. Which also bring along those trademark moments of unnerving qualities.
Steve Pemberton has much to do here and takes on the massive task of playing both himself and Herr Lipp in quite a number of scenes. Mark continues his great all round performances and especially so with the welcome return of the disreputable Hilary Briss. And Reece, as ever, seems to be handed the darkest and most disturbing of characters with his performances as Edward, Papa Lazarou and the thoroughly dislikeable 'you know I have this gun' Geoff Tipps.
Personally I would have loved to have seen more characters from the show, but logistically and for the sake of saving the viewers from getting too much brain ache it was assumably a better shift to limit the main characters so the audience can get on board with them on a more personal and sympathetic level. I mean these extraordinary characters have discovered their lives are not their own, their free will is predetermined by a group of writers and their world is being destroyed.
Building a character-audience relationship throughout the movie is a masterly unprecedented approach. Also it's so fascinating to see the creators take on a real discourteous style and coming across as that difficult to work with and strained relationships with each other, something of which I'm sure isn't commonly experienced between the group in real life, but who knows! It's the kind of indulgence like this that I want to see. Indulgence is what brings out some genuinely great things of artists, especially it would seem here in the UK. If Simon Pegg (speaking of whom has a brief and hilarious cameo here) and Edgar Wright hadn't indulged in their love for zombie movies would we have ever been gifted with 'Shaun of the Dead', if Radiohead didn't indulge from time to time would we have been treated to some truly unique musical talent. But with indulgence comes a price. I can't see a specific avenue for this kind of movie. I don't doubt all those who see it will enjoy it on some level but an audience with little or no knowledge or experience with the original series may fall short on the enjoyment stakes.
Another genuine gripe I had with the movie was the inclusion of the story within a story plotline that involved the guys once again playing characters they had written in a 1690s period drama, anti-Vasey styled script. It was fun to watch but I felt somewhat detracted from the actual movie we had been following up to that point. Although it may have possibly enjoyed a life of its own as a separate project for the boys.
All in all as a long time fan of the show I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. It's difficult to ponder what others, and non-familiar audience members may think of it all. But with its ever-increasing popularity as a cult comedy series I cannot see this movie doing the League any harm whatsoever. Plenty of in-jokes, both from the series and borrowings from other movies are fantastic for those with a keen film-buff eye. Superb toilet humour, which has been largely forgotten about in cinemas in recent years, and a great League-esque want for dark humour and horrific elements. Ideal for those Local and outsiders too!