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Mackenzie Crook and Johnny Vegas star as the bird-chasing, self-proclaimed "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" of Birmingham in this £3 million brit-com about two lowlifes with active fantasy sex lives who deliver potatoes to various restaurants and grocers. Written by
Watching Sex Lives of the Potato Men is kind of like consuming 12 pints of lager, watching The Word, eating a cold pizza, abusing yourself to Page 3 and waking up in a puddle of your own sick. You know you shouldn't enjoy it. You should be deeply ashamed. But somehow you can't help but look back and grin.
There's no doubt about it. Sex Lives of the Potato Men is badly written, poorly directed and does nothing to further British cinema, but if quality were determined by how many knob and fanny jokes you could squeeze into 80 minutes, it would rival Citizen Kane. And I guess that's what the film comes down to. Have you got a dirty, sleazy, sordid, twisted, juvenile sense of humour? I have, and that's why I found it funny.
Picking the most tasteless joke is kind of like deciding who the world's most evil dictator is, but I'd have to go for the phone call where one character is using a porn chat line while eating strawberry and fish paste sandwiches (don't ask) and it's revealed that Johnny Vegas is sitting next to him having his breakfast. It's disgusting, it's crude but it's also very funny. As is the scene where a man is taped to the ceiling while watching his wife. Then there are the group sex scenes where Vegas is more interested in the parking and fixing the bed. The whole film has a very dysfunctional attitude to sex, one that is very British. Here sex isn't meant to be enjoyed and it isn't about love. It's just done so that you can brag to your mates as you're downing your 15th pint of lager. It's recreation. In fact, the whole film plays up the male fear of relationships. Men don't want to be nagged and they don't want to feel suffocated. They just want to have lots of sex with lots of different women.
I think that part of the reason that Sex Lives of the Potato Men got such vitriolic reviews was because of how unattractive and desperate the characters are. This skinny guy and this fat bloke will do anything for sex. Anything. But although some of the escapades in the film are outlandish, the desperation isn't too far from the truth. Men will literally debase themselves in the worst way for a little bit of action. We have no shame and no standards. We'll sell our mothers and soil our good names for ten minutes with a woman, even if it's completely joyless. That's just the way we are. But although this doesn't provide one with a warm, cosy feeling, and while it shows people at their worst, I can't help but find it funny. Sad, pathetic, sex-obsessed men are amusing.
But actually, it's not just the men who are sad and perverted. The women here are just as desperate, just as debased and just as filthy. You've got randy mother-in-laws, amorous grannies and a chip shop girl who likes to watch men scrubbing floors. According to Sex Lives of the Potato Men, we're all hopelessly kinky. But that's another reason why I kind of like it. It makes me feel normal and well adjusted. Far from making me feel bad by showing a film with muscled hunks and unattainably gorgeous women, it makes me feel good by showing people that are even beneath me.
However, this isn't to say that the film is a work of comedy genius. The filmmakers' idea of subtlety is having 69 on the front door of a house and calling a fish and chip shop 'Fishy Fingers'. But because I'm a person that is highly amused by everything scatological, sexual and that which could be deemed bad taste, there were more than enough laughs for me. I mean, yeah, it's kind of like Viz with the wit and the intelligence removed, but those knob and fanny jokes come thick and fast. And besides, personally, I find Sex Lives of the Potato Men a million times less offensive than dross like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones' Diary. Yes Sex Lives may be like a tawdry tabloid that stains your skin, but at least it's a relatively honest depiction of life in Britain.
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