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Based on a popular UK comedy series, this film concerns two men, former schoolboy friends now approaching middle age, living in the industrial North-East of England. One has "got on" and runs a small building firm, the other is a dissolute drifter. Though often extremely funny, the film, shot in wintry North-East landscapes, also conveys a sense of wasted lives and unfulfilled hopes.
During the 1970s, a number of successful television sitcoms were given the
big-screen treatment with varying degrees of success. THE LIKELY LADS is one
of the best examples of the genre, and for my money it's actually superior
to the television series, which did suffer somewhat from an obviously
miniscule budget, occasionally poor acting from the supporting cast and a
vaguely under-rehearsed feel.
Drinking partners Bob Ferris and Terry Collier, lifelong friends since their schooldays (and juvenile court appearances), are both somewhat disturbed at the sweeping changes being made to the city where they grew up. Terry's street has recently been demolished and his family rehoused in a high-rise apartment block in a crime-ridden area; Bob is depressed because one of his favourite pubs is being knocked down. The grimy streets and houses of their youth are fast being replaced with concrete canyons, car parks and motorways. Add to this startling social upheaval the fact that 'respectable' Bob is undergoing a bout of existential angst akin to a severe mid-life crisis, and eternal wastrel Terry is equally unsure of his future beyond the next pint and the next passionate encounter with his latest "conquest", and you have the backdrop for one of the most thoughtful and unusual comedy films of the 1970s, mixing extremely funny set-pieces (Bob's flight of fancy during the bridge game, Terry's noisy urination up the side of the caravan, the loudly-broadcast argument in the washing powder promotional van) and genuinely witty dialogue with a genuinely sobering undercurrent of bleakness and despair. If you can imagine Saturday Night And Sunday Morning redrafted by Mike Leigh, then The Likely Lads is a similar sort of proposition.
Technically, the film is a cut above the usual low-budget Britcom fare, with snappy direction by Michael Tuchner and a good use of locations old and new, though some of the dialogue is oddly muffled (and some viewers may have trouble with the broad Northern dialect) and Tony Imi's cinematography, whilst certainly crisp, seems to render all the flesh tones a somewhat startling shade of pink - seemingly a minor quibble, but Imi's linking footage of Barbara Windsor and Kenneth Williams in the disappointing THAT'S CARRY ON (1977) was similarly garish.
All in all though, a great way to spend a slow evening, and there's another catchy theme tune from ex-Manfred Mann musician Mike Hugg to get your teeth into along the way.
These two actors were so good together and the script equally top notch
- why oh why in these days of poor sequels and the flogging to death of
anything half-decent must we be deprived of this fantastic idea /
partnership. The main players are still alive - so too the writers -
what is the problem BBC ?? If it is still Bewes & Bolam's dislike of
each other that is simply not an excuse - many actors have turned out
memorable roles opposite people they detested. Common sense and
professionalism should enter the scenario here as future generations
will not thank us for allowing this wonderful pairing to die off - DO
IT NOW. You did it with 'Only Fools....' Whether they like it or not
these two characters/actors are a NATIONAL INSTITUTION and they
achieved legendary status in their own lifetimes - something very rare
indeed - this should simply NOT BE ALLOWED to wither on the vine. If
you are reading this Messrs. Bolam and Bewes...please bury the hatchet
(if that is indeed the problem). Even if only for the sake of
posterity...Delboy has gone, so too Victor Meldrew.....Blair's Britain
must have something to look forward to.....your nation expects.
Must more licence-payers money be thrown at a seamless line of Antique / Boot Sale / Move to the country / Flog it / DIY / Cookery programmes? To say nothing of those awfully bad sensationalist fly-on-the-wall 'Reality' programmes which only serve to provide a stage for and inevitably generate yet more moronic and talentless 'wannabes'.
I recently met up with an old work colleague after 30 years and it's been great - please let Bob Ferris and Terry Collier do the same.
As both would now be heading down the retirement road, a nice twist would be Terry having finally turned out to be the more successful of the two whilst Bob (& Thelma's) fortunes have stagnated on the Elm Lodge Housing Estate courtesy of occupational pensions that didn't live up to their expectations.
They could meet at an airport ......having recently sold his string of Costa Del Sol bars, a flush, sun-tanned Terry returns and literally bumps into Bob re-stocking vending machines in the airport lounge "I do this part-time purely to keep active, you understand, kidder" Come on..MAKE IT HAPPEN FOR A NATION CRYING OUT FOR A DECENT SIT-COM....I've started it off, all you've got to do is carry it on.
What a brilliantly funny film,sharp script,great acting and a glimpse of north england in the mid 70's.Its up there with other TV spin-off movies like On the buses trilogy,Steptoe and Son,Are you being served and of course Porridge. Funny Moments- The Trip to Northumbria in Thelma's dads caravan being towed by a Vauxhalle Chevette,Bob getting stuck up a chimney trying to retrieve a football,and of course Thelma and Chris getting out of the caravan at the traffic lights unaware they have driven miles and terry and bob have picked up a pair of stunning female hitchhikers! Nostalgia moment-Tesco in the 70's,and cooking bacon in a frying pan with a fag hanging out of your mouth! All in all I've seen this film 2 times since Christmas,the 1st time was at Christmas on BBC1 and loved every minute of it and wished i had recorded it.2nd time was yesterday on DVD given away free with a national newspaper,i couldn't believe it when they advertised the 6 films they were giving away this week.I got Are you being served? the movie too but thats another review!
A big screen outing for likely lads Rodney Bewes and James Bolam, it's
a spin off from the popular TV shows that the two made in the 60's and
70's. It's directed by Michael Tuchner and written by Dick Clement and
Ian La Frenais.
Plot sees lifelong friends Bob Ferris (Bewes) and Terry Collier (Bolam) finding that times are a changing very fast. When the street where they grew up starts to be demolished, the pair feel the pangs of nostalgia more than most, even bringing the onset of a sort of mid-life crisis. Bob has to face life in the normality of a marriage to the no nonsense Thelma (Brigit Forsyth), and Terry, recently divorced, takes on a new girlfriend whilst firmly ensconced at his parents high rise flat. When Thelma sees that Terry, once the bane of her relationship with Bob, is going steady and happy with Christina (Mary Tamm), she plans a caravan holiday for the four of them .Which surely will not go as planned?
Although taking the title of the first show that ran on British TV between 1964 and 1966, this film spin off is closer in tone to the sequel show, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? During the 70's, Britain was awash with situation comedies, many of which had the obligatory film spin off. Sadly, very few of them were any good, bogged down by trying to extend a half hour comedy formula into three times the running time. The Likely Lads movie is one of the rare successes, mainly because the writers were so in tune with the times, they were able to plant the much loved characters in the 70's time frame and involve the comedy as such. Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? Always carried an air of melancholy about it, but the comedy was still rich and prominent, so it be with this film version.
Bewes and Bolam were an excellent partnership, where Bob is a snob in waiting, borderline henpecked one at that, Terry is the slob, the boozy cynic always dragging Bob back to reality. But their bond is born from the days of hard drinking and chasing women, they hanker for those days again, it's almost as if they refuse to accept they are getting a bit too long in the tooth for such antics now. Here in the film, Clement and La Frenais play on this with much reward, you see, the modern world has not just caught them up, it's also winning the race between them. The answer is simple, take a holiday. But of course this too will be one for the miserablists to bemoan, it's a classic British holiday, small caravan, pouring rain, chance of nooky? Zero. Chance of great comedy? Very high.
The plot doesn't in truth quite cover the 90 minute run time, but there's enough here to warrant it being called one of the better film spin offs from the 70's. Great acting, not just the boys, Forsyth always a revelation, and writing as crisp as a winters day. God bless those Geordie boys. 8/10
Although the film is or was 1976,(released?) would anyone know if it was filmed in that year, as sometimes the actual filming of movies takes place the year before?,it was a great film in my view, and summed up the era very well,its amazing that is about thirty years since its making,i think it was also the best thing they did, as the TV series of them seemed to get in to a bit of a rut, i wonder what other people think,was the rumour true that the pair never spoke to each other off screen and generally hated each other!i see Rodney was on TV the other day looking very much older, any info about the filming would be a great help, thanks, Geoff.
Whatever happened to the Likely Lads is one of the best remembered British sit-coms of the 70s delighting in strong characterization between two friends, one a somewhat nostalgic but still feral working class man Terry, the other a domesticated and married aspiring middle class man, Bob. Alas, this dynamic is all but abandoned for this spin-off, one of the poorest of the 70s. The spin-off genre itself is notoriously bad, but there really was no excuse for this. The writing duo had 'taken advantage' of the cinematic version to insert crudities which would never have been allowed on TV. So many punch lines end with "I couldn't give a s**t" or "b*****cks", yes the script really is this witty, Elsewhere the usual interplay between Bob and Terry is allowed to flourish only infrequently, crammed into a plot which forces them both to act out of character through out. One really wonders what the writers were thinking of.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 30 minute long TV episodes of the Likely Lads sitcoms may be excellent I would have given them 10/10 rating but in the case of this movie spin-off, it actually passes the time and why? In fact, the plot of this spin-off is a rather thin and its too long and only ends up representing hell just like some other TV sitcoms do. Another problem was that its very bleak not because of the spin-off was set around North Eastern England centred on the Tyne but because of the weather makes this rather depressing to watch and the way Bob and Thelma squabble and then Bob and Terry take their missus' "caravaning" and...oh very strange! Why couldn't they wait till a warm sunny day rather than all this tomfoolery around Hadrian's wall in the Tyne Valley risking pneumonia on a miserable wet day. In the whole, this is a bit disappointing and even the truth behind the making of the TV series put some strain on the main stars James Bollom and Rodney Bewes's working relationship and finally intensified into breakdown with this spin-off when Bewes revealed it all around thirty years on that the duo hadn't spoken to each other since over some press misunderstanding.
An interesting film to watch if you feel nostalgic for Tyneside locations that have now gone. The flat where Terry lives in Howdon was part of an ambitious high rise scheme that was built in 1961 but by the eighties had become run down,vandalised and prone to lift failures and damp on the higher floors. By the early nineties these three blocks of flats which were a landmark from the Coast Road had been demolished as they had become unpopular with tenants. Maybe Terry, who was so keen to move out of the old terraces to the new world of high rise living, would have been the first on the list for a transfer. Also seen near the end is the Spanish City fun fair. This was once a very popular attraction for families and teenagers until foreign holidays and computer games took over and attendances went into decline. Eventually the fair was closed down in 1999 and turned into housing, although the Dome remains as this is a listed building. Also look out for things you never see now such as Bob's Vauxhall Chevette, once a popular small car in the seventies, yellow buses( I think they're all Stagecoach now) and, of course, flares, kipper ties and men with long hair.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads? is a classic TV series. I bought
this film as it is the equivalent of three further episodes as well as
being Terry and Bob's final appearance. Unfortunately, it doesn't work
quite so well as any of the TV episodes. A lot of the jokes are
recycled from the series (and writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais'
other works) and the story feels a bit directionless.
Personally, I think Clement and La Frenais learnt a lot from this picture though. A few years later they made probably the best ever TV sitcom to movie transfer with the Porridge film- which actually has an effective plot to provide it's humour. The Likely Lads film is interesting to see what finally became of the lads. There are some great moments- Terry announcing "The end is nigh, Ferris!" and "Not my fault" on the megaphone, Bob and Thelma's last very public row, Terry getting hit by the vase thrown from his flat window and the cinema format allowed more classic comedy swearing than the BBC would have.
As I say though, the whole thing just seems kind of forced and aimless. But it's still worth seeing for completists and- like all of the writers' work- is valuable as a great document of British social history. Interestingly, they again end with someone leaving the country for an uncertain future- just as in the original '60's Likely Lads series, the first ending of Auf Wiedersehen Pet and the ending of the recent Auf Pet revival. For the best of Terry Collier and Bob Ferris though, get the "Whatever Happened To" series on DVD.
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