Lost in translation
There is something scarily irresistible about Will Ferrell’s face. It’s those twinkly eyes, which would look handsome on a mug less squarish and bloated. It’s the blank smile that appears occasionally, though his lips are usually set in a sombre mould as his absurdly pompous characters are normally delivered straight, amplifying their hilarity.
Ostensibly a remake of the beloved 1974 children’s programme, Brad Silberling’s (City of Angels, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events) film is more of a parody of the original show which, in the vein of the Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson starring Starsky and Hutch, seems to want to walk that middle ground between spoof and earnest adventure, effectively attempting to have the cake and eat it. What ensues is, inevitably, a patchy experience. No slackness is evident on the technical front, however. The hokey amusement park feel of the series is transported into the noughties thanks to an excellent CGI team, though the art direction deserves most of the credit, as great care is taken to tap into the endearing kitsch that is the trademark stamp of the television series. The Sleestak antagonists are not men in green rubber suits, but digital reproductions of men in rubber suits. And therein lies the film’s ethos: in updating the look of the series, it attempts to cash in on the nostalgia brought about by its very creakiness. Predictably, Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas’ script plays as if it’s been written in five minutes after a heavy session with the bong. While its inconsequentiality is not necessarily a bad thing – if anything it relaxes you into accepting the relentless wackiness of the world – there is something undeniably crass about stuffing a family-friendly property with profanity, references to sex and exotic drug taking and expecting the project to float on that basis, helped by Will Ferrell offering up his tried-and-tested schtick. It never quite achieves that wonderful balance Shrek had: where the adult and kid appeal was divided more or less 50/50, neither is it a completely daring, gross-out reinvention (it was edited down to PG-13 from an R-rating). Which kind of leaves you wondering as to what its target audience is. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to have one at all: at the time of writing, it has made just over half of its $100 million budget.