Stella Street (2004)
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If you have never seen the 10 minute programmes that make up the series Stella Street, this film version is certainly not the place to start! The rough impressions and rather loose plots and storylines will almost certainly not be to everyone's tastes - a fact that was reflected in the film going straight to video and being screened on the BBC within a week of it being released. Can't understand the logic to that myself - why not just wait a few months at least and keep it quiet, that way at least fans will buy it not knowing it was due to TV.
Anyway, not being a massive fan, I forced myself to wait the week to see it on TV and save myself £15 (nice job BBC - that'll recoup your million investment!). The film manages to do a better job at creating a plot than series three did, but is still a bit episodic until the final 25 minutes where the stars lose their cash. The first 10 minutes will also be quite meaningless for fans as it just sets up the street and why all the stars are there. In some ways the film actually steps backwards as we have Dustin Hoffman moving into Hill's house here where he already had in the series. It still works pretty well though; the characters are funny for the same reasons they were in the series - being juxtapositioned with the English suburb and having their characters and mannerisms exaggerated. If you enjoy the series for what it is then it is likely you will enjoy this film. The plot may not be great but that shouldn't be a problem if you are used to the episodic nature of the series.
The cast (all three of them) are really good. The impressions are never spot on but many of them sound pretty good and the fact that they aren't the actual people is part of the joke! Sessions and Cornwall work together really well and the `shooting from back of head' trick when they are playing two characters in the same scene is not overused or very obvious. The addition of Ancona is important to move the plot forward, but she also gets a few funny parts as Madonna and Posh Spice.
Overall I enjoyed this film but then I have always enjoyed the series. If you are a fan then this will be good enough for you but it is an acquired taste that will likely alienate as many first time viewers as it pleases.
All in all it does capture the essence of the series quite well and has most of the original characters (plus some additional ones provided by the always good Ronni Ancona), so I just have one question - where was Roger Moore?
i made sure i had a few beers by me as i sat and watched this film. I knew what to expect and i was left in stitches laughing my ass off to most of the sketches and scenes. the old house cleaner helping jimmy greeves and then getting wasted on class a, to David bowie pretending he doesn't care that no one likes his singing. this is a decent attempt at a comedy from the British. it beats sex lives of the potato men and the rest easily...
in my opinion only blackball is as good as this... again a brit flick but you cant compare a British movie to a Hollywood blockbuster unless you have the monetary figure behind it to back you up...
i would recommend stella street the movie to anyone who likes British movies, odd comedys, or a dodgy movie to have a laugh with your mates.
I was dismayed by the way that nearly all of the gags and one liners were directly lifted from the T.V Episodes, and delivered with much less enthusiasm and comic timing, as if the actors had said them once, and couldn't be bothered to say them again. I bought my copy on DVD and felt cheated that I had parted with my hard earned cash to watch the same jokes over again.
*SPOILERS* The plot of the film starts with Stella Street (a normal English street in Surrey), gradually being populated by 'some of the most famous people from stage and screen of the last forty years', including Michael Caine, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and The Rolling Stones. All the celebrities in the street end up being conned out of their entire fortunes by a local fraudster, and are forced to live like tramps and common working class people. There are some nice moments, but on the whole, the writers manage to take an interesting idea and make it pretty boring. *END OF SPOILERS*
In the T.V Episodes, all the characters are performed by John Sessions and Phil Cornwell (including females), but in the film Ronni Ancona is added to the cast. I think this was a mistake. Her impersonations weren't funny, and it felt like her characters were included in the story just to give her something to do.
If you were not a fan of the episodes of Stella Street, you may find this film entertaining. But if you were a fan, I think you may walk away feeling a little bit cheated. 4/10
I spent the first 20 mins of the movie worrying that it was'nt like the show, but then its an 80 minute film so it would'nt be! Once I'd got my head round the format it works perfectly well.
All the "stars" are present and correct and the story does allow some nice sequences such as the idea that Jack Nicholson can play cricket :) If you have never seen Stella Street the TV series then you should settle into this quicky and enjoy the performances (though some of the venacular may leave you scratching your head). If you know the show then just prepare for "a period of adjustment".
See Jack Nicholson living in a South London suburb, asking the corner shop owner (Mick Jagger), "Mick, where are the goddamn Shreddies?"
A real treat for movies fans.
Michael Caine, just making a name for himself, is the first celebrity to set up home on the Street. Jimmy Hill isn't far behind him.
We jump to 2001, when Michael tells Jack Nicholson of Stella Street's charms. After this, the word spreads and soon detached houses are changing hands for £3million, which is quite expensive even for Surrey. The Stones come to run the shop, and the stage is set.
A notable addition to the original cast is Ronnie Ancona. She has a few brief appearances as an American reporter, Madonna, Victoria Beckham and an evil Irish girl. Sadly, I don't think the film really benefits from her presence; if anything, Sessions and Cornwell dressed as women are funnier.
With the exception of a couple of clips in flashback scenes, all the material for the movie has been freshly shot, and any previous Surbiton happenings have been long since forgotten. Except for the interior of the corner shop, the location has changed from London, W12, to an anonymous cul-de-sac in Surrey. This made filming easier (so the commentary tells us) due to less traffic, although the grander the houses get, the less absurd Stella Street's core conceit becomes.
Those already familiar with Stella Street will find the opening scenes of the movie a little slow, as they are reintroducing the set-up that the first 30 seconds of episode 1 did so well. You will also miss Dirk Bogarde, Roger Moore, Alan Rickman, Jimmy Saville, Patrick Moore, John Hurt, Marlon Brando and The Slurreys, all of whom have been omitted. Strangely, Jack Flatley (graduating from Mr Gale's Honey Bee), Mike Duggan and Vince Chuff have survived the suburbanite cull to become the villains of the piece. The enigmatic Dave Haskell has a speaking part as a milkman (including a great feed-line for Jack Nicholson), and Dean Barraclough remains intact. Another generic TV character to make it through is Len MacMonotony, who is more overtly bonkers than his original incarnation. (In my view, Len was funnier when there was some doubt of his mental stability.) John Sessions' Scottish policeman also makes a brief appearance.
The style is different to the TV show, although there are still examples of the fast editing and use of stand-ins that make the original work so well. It's clear the pace has been slowed to carry the story over 80 minutes (not long for a feature these days), and the film is very even by modern standards, where so often a film descends into by-the-numbers mechanics after the first dazzling 2 reels.
Gone is the Art of Art theme tune that welcomed each episode of the original series. In its place, we have a superb Frank Sinatra impression taking off tracks such as `The Good Life.' I do not know who this singer is, but I believe he also sang the introduction to Armando Iannucci's Friday/Saturday Night Armistice on BBC2. Also, on the Bowie parodies, there are some excellent impressions of the guitar work of Robert Fripp.
Whilst shot on video, the movie is in Panavision (an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1).
My view has always been that Series 1 was the funniest. Whilst it had the lowest production values, being shot on Hi8, it had an energy, speed and freshness (not to mention a cinema verity look) that left most other TV comedy of the time standing. Series 2 built on 1's strengths, and was also very funny, with more characters and a bit more money spent. Series 3 was the first attempt at a feature-length episode, but when broadcast as 10 minute chunks, the rhythm of the piece suffered. Series 4, on the whole, wasn't very good. With the movie, the style appears to be midway between the quickfire series 2 and the extended series 3. As this movie is not intended to be watched in 10 minute chunks, the problems with series 3 do not arise. The movie also has some of the finest impression work of any of Phil and John's output to date.
All in all, the Stella Street movie is very good, and if you've enjoyed the series you'll get something out of it. If you've never seen Stella Street before, you're in for a treat.
Finally, as a fan myself, I urge you to buy the DVD of this movie, as the more sold, the better the chance of a DVD release of the first two series!
* Harry Enfield is involved in Peter Richardson's current project Churchill: The Hollywood Years. This makes it far more likely that Enfield is the voice-over artist.
It is mostly old material, updated for a new cinema audience though. A good way for those who don't know about Stella Street to get into it.
Sadly we didn't get to see Dirk Bogarde, who is another character they get just right.
I do agree with the point about Ronni Ancona, her characters are difficult to identify, and poor in comparison to Sessions and Cornwell.
they employ the talented ronni ancona (good to see her without mcgowan to bring her down) but used her sparingly, often as just a prop, to save sessions/cornwall from cross dressing too much, and i only found out she played so many different characters in the credits.
There is a sort of storyline, which i guess you need in a 75min feature, but they end up re-writing all the past series to make it work, virtually eschewing the TV work in favour of the film.
it passed the time, and made you appreciate good impressions, but i would have preferred a re-run of the tv series.