Dir: Michael Tuchner, 1989
Whether it’s Morecambe & Wise, Peter Cooke and Dudley Moor or even Penn & Teller, all duos with an inkling in comedy, feel the need to make a film.
Understandably, it’s a natural progression. It’s a way of widening your audience and, if successful, making some big bucks.
Not learning from their, shall we say, less-than-well received first cinematic outing, Morons From Outer Space, comedians Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones tried their hand once again on the big screen. Alas, they really shouldn’t have bothered.
Starting their career in the comedy series Not The Nine O’Clock News, the pair went on to form their own programme, Alas Smith & Jones. Like the predecessor, the duo’s series was all different sketches; as is the norm when people get their own show.
Immediately, you can see how that would be a problem for their starring roles in Wilt; a film adaptation of a Tom Sharpe novel.
By and large, sketch shows aren’t overly taxing when it comes to displaying one’s thespian ability. You’re not going to win an Oscar for best actor by saying “four candles”. In bursts of, around, three to four minutes, there isn’t much time to process (or much less care) whether the acting is up to scratch
Griff Rhys Jones isn’t the best actor in the world, nor is he a particularly charismatic one. He doesn’t possess that “leading actor” star quality that is important for a film. There’s no strength in his performance, or any appealing factor. As an audience, we can’t empathise with him, so there’s no connection to the character. The portrayal is bland and lifeless.
Out of the pair, Mel Smith was always the more talented. As an actor, he appeared in a number of movies before this; Slayground with Peter Coyote and the Chevy Chase film, National Lampoon’s European Vacation. In addition, he was also a noted director, with Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie being, arguably, his most famous.
So, it will go as no surprise to find that the late comedian is the best part about Wilt. As a buffoon police officer, Smith has the comedic touch to make the role memorable. Unfortunately, Andrew Marshall (writer of 2 Point 4 Children) and David Renwick’s (Whoops! Apocalypse, One Foot In The Grave and Jonathan Creek) script, is so banal and tedious that even Smith can’t save it.
Unfunny and boring, Wilt should be taken as a warning instead of a title.
Dreadful from start to finish.