Did we like it?
This Lee Evans vehicle was a whimsical piece of comedy drama from ITV1 and we heartily endorse it spending money on such one-off TV movies. It fitted well for a Bank Holiday evening as well… which says a lot about the film. Diverting but perhaps ultimately a little unsatisfying.
What was good about it?
• We enjoyed much of the originality of the writing. It was based in Dickensian times and was clearly influenced by that setting, yet at times it felt surprisingly modern. It was an interesting mixture of comedy, drama, tragedy and thriller.
• It showcased a whole bunch of funny little characters, our favourite of which was the mumbling priest, who spoke without moving his lips and whose words seem to melt into each other.
• We enjoyed Alfred Polly’s female cousins as well, who flocked and fussed around him without any of the reserve exhibited by, say, Elizabeth’s sisters in Pride and Prejudice.
• Roger Lloyd-Pack’s small role as a sort of ultra-conservative guardian angel in Polly’s early years.
• The film held our attention for the full two hours, mainly through the sheer willpower of Lee Evans’ performance in the often-intriguing titular role. Of course, we particularly welcomed his silent-era style pratfalls.
• Despite the sweetness and the happy ending and the beautiful English scenery we appreciated the dark side to this tale, of a son who was rarely loved by his father, a husband who did not love his wife and was stifled by her and a man struggling with his own mortality and, at times, his cowardice.
What was bad about it?
• We can’t help but like and admire Lee Evans. But the problem with Lee Evans is that he is so resolutely Lee Evans. Perhaps more than virtually every other actor he is ‘himself’. His game mugging and his doleful eyes and his representation of confused good-heartedness were perfect for the role… but that’s exactly what we would expect of him. Perhaps we’re being harsh here for there is no doubt he is hugely talented. Perhaps this role was just too ‘perfect’ for him.
• This adventure tale encompassed so many genres but maybe it was in its sheer wide brief that it ultimately lacked something. It wasn’t quite funny enough, not quite thrilling enough, not quite tragic enough to ever be hugely enjoyable.