Harris, J, and George decide to take a holiday boating up the Thames to Oxford. Battling against Hampton Court maze, tents, rain, locks, and Henley Regatta the accident-prone threesome have one success anyway - they meet Sophie, Primrose and Bluebell. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
I read the reviews of Three Men in a Boat before watching the film and couldn't believe that it is as bad as most reviewers claim. I mean to say, just look at the cast. Tomlinson, Edwards and Harvey are not a collection of comedic geniuses, perhaps, but surely they amass enough talent to produce an amusing adaptation of this admired novel. However, the negative reviewers are correct: this film is simply terrible. Although it only runs to 84 minutes it took me five sittings to get through it. I could barely tolerate watching twenty minutes at a time. I persevered because well, look at the cast, surely they would deliver something funny eventually; perhaps the finale would be hilarious.
I grew up in Britain and still love old British comedies: Ealing, of course, Will Hay, Alastaire Sim, Peter Sellers, and so many others. I even like the lower-level comedy of the Carry On series, Benny Hill, or Frankie Howerd. This film, though, has less laughs than Polanski's Macbeth.
Some reviews have suggested that some people find the film unamusing because it is 'dated.' It was made in the fifties and set in the 1880s. However, these facts alone shouldn't be detrimental to a film's appeal. A good number of Britain's best and most appreciated comedies were made in the fifties, such as The Lavender Hill Mob, Hobson's Choice, and I'm All Right Jack. In fact, the decade is a Golden Age for British film comedy. The story's setting in an earlier period can hardly be detrimental either. Kind Hearts and Coronets stands easily as one of the best British comedies, yet it was set in the same historical period as Three Men in a Boat, was released six years earlier and was filmed in black and white. Similarly, Ken Annakin, this film's director, had his biggest successes with Monte Carlo or Bust! (1969) and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), both of which are set in times only slightly later than Three Men in a Boat and are equally far removed from contemporary audiences, but are still relatively amusing.
Some films age badly because of the focus of the material. George Formby and the Old Mother Riley comedies relied for their context on a particular interwar period and a British working class culture that had largely disappeared by the 1960s and has little meaning for people in contemporary Britain, let alone the rest of the world. Other examples are the sex comedies made in Britain in the 1970s or the blacksploitation movies made in the US in the same decade. These films are clearly dated but retain entertainment value because of their anachronistic fashions and dialogue.
Astonishingly, Three Men in a Boat was nominated for a BAFTA for, of all things, best screen play. This is baffling because the writers make little effort to drive the story with witty dialogue. Dialogue is, in fact, rather scant. The attempts at comedy come mostly from slapstick situations where our heroes wave tent poles and oars around for insufferable lengths of time, fall in the water repeatedly, and prattles on loudly and unintelligibly. The assumption is, apparently, that if these situations continue for long enough something funny simply has to happen. It doesn't. Slapstick can be badly done but it doesn't become dated. The silent movies of Chaplain and Keaton are still wonderful; the Three Stooges are still ridiculous and funny; much in Norman Wisdom's movies is dated, but when he falls through a window he is still hilarious. Not so Tomlinson, Edwards and Harvey.
On this one, I'm afraid, I concur with the "smug" negative reviewers. This is the least funny Brit Com I've ever seen, and I've seen "Carry on England."
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