Engaging but too little intelligence to balance the "off-the-wall" zaniness
It is 2012 and London is in chaos. When the Queen is assassinated by an unknown mutant, Police Chief Benson is put in the hot seat and really has no time for the juvenile actions of his daughter Whitey. Benson calls in help in the form of highly-regarded but relatively fresh Terry Phoo to lead up the investigation and help protect Princes William and Harry from attack. Meanwhile Whitey feels that her father is overlooking the most obvious suspect (mutant Jimmy Freebie) just because he happens to be a celebrity.
Based on the Jamie Hewlett strip "Get the Freebies" in The Face (which I have never read), this one-off special was part of the big relaunch on "youf" digital station BBC3. Never a fan of BBC3, The Mighty Boosh had recently convinced me that maybe there are nuggets of gold among all the sh1t and from the coverage in the Guardian and Times at the weekend, I thought Phoo Action might be one of them. Apparently the strip was a rally against the celebrity culture that was rising in the 1990's (and has only gotten worse since). In a way the film does have this but it is a very small part of the rather "wacky" comic strip shenanigans which make up the majority of it.
It will appeal mostly to those viewers who watched Tank Girl but bemoaned it for losing the anarchic spirit of the strip. Personally I don't mind what it does as long as it is well done and in this regard I must confess that Phoo Action didn't totally work for me. The problem was that it was all a bit too silly and didn't have enough intelligence evident to make it stand up as more than what it appears to be on the surface. Of course it is hard to totally move away from the silliness when your main villain has a basketball for a head while her heroes are a girl who can pull anything from her hotpants and fights alongside a gay kung fu expert. Sadly the budget also prevents it being as cool as it could have done, which also exposes the lack of cutting edge in it as well.
This is not to say it is without charm because it does have a rough creative edge to it that I enjoyed. The design of it is suitably irreverent and it does suit the roots while the cast do well. I had never seen Jamie Winstone in anything but I thought she suited this not pretty enough to be accused of being eye-candy but not so tough that we lose the fact she is a girl basically just what this sort of character needs. Shin is lighter as Phoo but he is still good value and I would be interested to see what he did with more of a series and development in his role. Weathers is a bit of a coup for the film and by his very presence he buys it cool points. The mutants are a bit too "costume-y" for me to take totally seriously but again I suppose it is part of the appeal to fans.
Overall then a fun little film but for my money it had too much zany silliness and not enough intelligence or comment. As an one-off it is forgivable though for delivering how it wants to be deliver (although this is not totally a good thing) and I would be interested to see what a short series off the back of this would bring out and produce.
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