I really liked this as a TV series in the past. I haven't seen an episode in many years and this film is the only evidence I've encountered recently. It is a desperate disappointment.
This feeling isn't that surprising. In the 1970's most major British sitcoms were turned into film versions, every time with inferior results. The best of these sitcoms, like "Steptoe and Son", "Porridge" and "Rising Damp" still managed to produce quite good films. However the results with the second rank comedies were generally poor. This is such an example.
It is difficult to turn a 25-30 minutes format into a workable feature film. The writers and producers always took the characters out of their original situation and then struggled to keep quality and pace going for 90 minutes. Here the characters are sent to Blackpool for part of the film (a holiday being a standard plot device) and then pad the rest out with a marriage. Where "Nearest and Dearest" especially struggles is its lack of real comic quality. The best sitcoms had really well-drawn characters and were capable of social comment and even pathos. It is one of those sitcoms that relies very heavily on innuendo, which has not fared well over time. There are the habitual comic confusions of the time over sex, with any suggestion of pre-marital action provoking apoplexy in those more traditional times. It also has the standard inclusion of some large-breasted young women for laughs, an approach we have rather transcended.
Other humour comes from Nellie's malapropisms. These are quite amusing in small doses but lose their impact over time. Most frustrating is the use of stupid behaviour in a feeble attempt to amuse.
There are some funny lines and the film will certainly hold some nostalgic interest for fans of the series and of the seventies in general. However after seeing this it is hard to seriously see those days as the halcyon ones they are often portrayed - certainly not in terms of comedy. I think we should be thankful that our modern favourites are not subjected to this sort of demolition on the big screen.
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