Reviewed: Jackboots On Whitehall (2010)

Jackboots-on-whitehall_posterRight there on the DVD cover it states “Team America crashing headfirst into Inglourious Basterds” – a quote by a Mr Simon Reynolds from Digital Spy. After attempting to view this movie I became interested in following up the full review from him because sure, I get the Inglourious Basterds comparison (alternate WW2 timeline) and the Team America reference is understandable with the puppets and all but when a movie is sold purely on what other films it may be like, you know you’re in for something that’s a little second rate.

What made me think, “Oh, this might be okay actually” was the cast – a bona fide who’s who of iconic British actors with Ewan McGregor leading the charge. But, even with all that wonderful talent on board, they miss the mark completely. The lack of competent voice direction is readily apparent and the underwhelming visual appeal of the film does nothing but accentuate this.

In Mr Simon Reynolds’ original review where his quote is so elegantly pulled, the full sentence is as follows;

Imagine Team America crashing headfirst into Inglourious Basterds and you’re about halfway to getting your head around Jackboots On Whitehall, a period puppet comedy that imagines a German invasion of London in the midst of World War II.”

About halfway – not even that. The rest of the review reads like it was paid for by someone so that they could pull a juicy quote from it to stick on the front of a DVD. There are elements of true objectivity in there but I feel that the negatives are glossed over with positives that are just not true.

Let’s talk about comparisons to successful films as selling points for lacklustre movies for a bit. When you have to name drop other works to explain your own, perhaps what you’ve got is more than a little derivative and lacking in imagination. And when you compare your work to such established genre-defining films – perhaps what you are trying to say is; if you liked this film then you might like mine as well. As a consumer however, all one sees is; Team America was great, this will be great too. Then when they pop the film in to watch it, they’ll say “I really wish I was watching Team America right now because this sucks.” But that doesn’t really matter to you because you’ve already got their money.

To put things in perspective, Team America cost about $30,000,000. The cast was made up of voice actors who you haven’t heard of unless you’re interested in that type of thing. This means they get paid standard fees (not the kind of fees you’d expect if they actually got George ClooneyMatt Damon etc. on board). Jackboots On Whitehall cost an estimated $6,000,000 and it boasts a host of well known actors who, for the most part, would not come cheap. Even if the actors in each film were paid relative amounts, that is still a certain percentage of vastly different overall costs. Team Americas’ marionette work, although they make fun of its limitations within the film, is beautiful to behold. The opening sequence where a marionette walks jerkily along in front of a badly painted backdrop sets us up to think, “What did I just pay money to see?” then pulls back to reveal a larger marionette controlling the first one in a lush Parisian scene with working props and so much detail that it’s a true work of art.

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Jackboots On Whitehall feels like that opening sequence before we pull back. Sure, there are some wonderful props in the form of working model tanks and other war machines but the lack of detail put into the backgrounds and (this is important) OUR MAIN CHARACTERS makes you want to gouge your eyes out. The incredibly lazy CG that makes the characters talk is one of the worst digital effects I’ve seen in a feature film. I’ve seen better animation and puppetry in TV shows where the intended audience is six. What makes you think that an adult will want to sit through 90 minutes of this?

If you want to see a British film with top quality voice actors and some sub-standard visuals about WW2, I suggest you watch the kids film Valiant. The pedigree of talent may not be as high as Jackboots On Whitehall but it’s still got Ewan McGregor and it’s far more entertaining than this rubbish.

I usually give points for effort but nah, I won’t this time. If you hazard to see this movie, I’m sure you’ll understand.

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