JACKBOOTS ON WHITEHALL (12A): On General Release Friday October 8th
Animation is making a big comeback this year. We’ve had melancholy grace (The Illusionist), rollicking action adventures (How To Train Your Dragon), the weird and wonderful (Ponyo) and outright masterpieces (Toy Story 3).
Jackboots on Whitehall is none of the above – it’s a gleefully silly version of A Boy’s Own Adventure, an irreverent alternative history of 1940 where the evacuation of Dunkirk was not successful and Hitler has managed to invade the country by tunnelling under through France into Buckingham palace.
But the country’s not about to go down without a fight and it’s up to cigar-chomping, Tommy gun-toting Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall), farmhand Christopher (Ewan McGregor) – previously disqualified from military service on account of his massive hands, a gung-ho Yank convinced he’s fighting the Commies (Dominic West), comely nurse Daisy (Rosamund Pike) and her Reverend father (Richard E. Grant) to liberate Buckingham Palace.
Together they might have a chance of fending off the evils of Hitler dressed as Elizabeth I (Alan Cumming),flamboyantly camp Himmler (Richard O’Brien), ghost-faced Goebbels (Tom Wilkinson) and porky Goering (Richard Griffiths), if only they can get the barbarian inhabitants of Scot Land to help them out.
It’s a surprisingly high-profile cast for something so unashamedly low budget but the big names on its cast list add very little to the proceedings. Its deliberately crude parodies andl heavy-handed stereotyping will elicit a wry smile but very few audible laughs and if anything the film is overly reliant on lazily referencing pop culture (it owes much to Raiders Of The Lost Ark for its Nazi lampooning).
Jackboots is a throwaway bit of fun which never actually makes a point about anything. There’s satire sure, but it’s a fairly obvious brand of satire, one that you could easily come up with on your own with some friends. This is a shame because there’s a rich vein of comedy to be mined. Instead, we have to be content with ‘Allo ‘Allo!-style humour and jokes about Fany (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry).
There’s much fun to be had with the visuals though. Puppets allow for a level of violence that you wouldn’t be able to get away with in live-action film and it revels in Braveheart levels of gore where limbs and torsos are cleaved in twain with nary a second thought and punctuated by explosions that would make John McTiernan jealous. And it’s hard not to smile every time Goebbels pops up – pale-face and open mouthed like he’s just seen a ghost.
There’s nothing big or clever about Jackboots and most of its humour is derived from puerile innuendo or simply laughing at juvenile versions of famous historical figures. Ultimately, it’s as deposable as a copy of Viz, but that’s sort of the point.