I've seen Kiki and Herb play live in NYC several times over the years and wasn't sure what to expect or how their act would translate to the big screen, but I have to say that it works very well. This film offers a hilarious 'behind the scenes' account of their trip to London, following the progress of the ageing, alcoholic chanteuse Kiki, and her accompanist and collaborator Herb through London, as her delusions of grandeur and high hopes of playing a West End theater gradually disintegrate, culminating with an appearance on board a rusty old tub of a boat moored on the Thames.
Nothing lives up to Kiki's expectations and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments and funny incidents along the way. We are privy to the machinations of her barbed brain, spiked with anecdotal tales from the past, discovering her opinions on everything from the treatment of cancer to modern architecture. Driven into town in a 'people mover', they reluctantly partake in some sight-seeing, only enjoying Big Ben, 'the biggest clock in the world', because it reminds them it's happy hour, resulting in them being drunkenly ejected from a London 'pub'. They are true showbiz troupers however and later perform in front of an adoring audience before Kiki later passes out at her post show party only to be unceremoniously urinated on.
The performances are superb throughout, Justin Bond as Kiki is utterly believable, sharp and relentlessly witty and although Kenny Mellman's Herb is barely allowed to get a word in edge-ways, his interactions, shrugs and smirks along with Kiki's philosophical acceptance of whatever is thrown at her, give a very real sense that they have been on the road together for decades, becoming victims of circumstance, forced to go wherever they get a booking. There is a strong feeling that this is 'business as usual' for the duo, that they really have spent their lives on this 'low rent' show business circuit.
Some of the scenes drag slightly, but Kiki's relentless energy and wit keep the laughs coming while Herb sits alongside, occasionally nodding in agreement, sometimes nodding off, and acting as a perfect foil with his witty interjections and reactions. Basically, it's a fantastic idea that pretty much comes off; although perhaps more judicious editing could have cut back some of the more meandering scenes and made for a more compact film. It clearly has a low budget feel and is slightly messy at times, but the hand held camera-work and lack of slick production values make it unpretentious and contribute to the feeling that the pair really are washed up ageing cabaret stars having to make the best of what life throws at them.
Overall though, it's a lot of fun. They are very likable characters, I defy anybody not to warm to Kiki and Herb, and this film gives an entertaining and occasionally poignant insight into their extraordinary lives. It lacks the musical numbers which underpin their live act, but this is more then compensated for by the brilliance of Bond's monologue and the opportunity to see them in a whole new context.
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