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Fails to get to the heart of the character or have enough laughs to cover it (SPOILERS)
It has been well over a decade since Greg was a teenage sensation on the magic circuit and now he is really only remembered for the infamous outtake where a child called him a "f**king w**ker" on a live Saturday morning show. Now he is a member of the executive sales team in a sofa retailer with more staff than customers. If this is not bad enough, his fifteen minutes of fame seem to have condemned him to much longer of being recognised now. Today though, an interaction with one woman sees him achieving fame of a sort again.
It looked good when it was advertised and the fact that it was the first one-off film in a series of one-off comedy film being shown in a "Comedy Showcase" season on Channel 4 suggested that it would be well worth seeing. Martin Freeman of The Office, in a comedy that, looking at the plot summary, would be playing to a strength we already know he has from that aforementioned comedy seemed like it could be really good. Well, sadly it isn't.
It has a few laughs here and there but mostly the film boils down to a courtroom scene with some other stuff before it to set it up. I won't spoil the main joke in the courtroom (although readers should note I have already given spoiler warnings) but it played awful close to the gag involving the "blind" lawyer in season 1 of the wonderful Arrested Development. Maybe my affection for this show meant that I didn't find it that funny and did see it coming from a mile off, but still even with that joke flopping there should have been more right? Well, there sort of is but it is far less than you would have hoped. The lawyer is funny but that is pretty much it. I suspect the reason why much of it failed to interest me was because this painful awkward comedy does rely on strong characters and here we have none.
Other than the basic "tired of this life" look on Freeman's face, there isn't much to his Greg that you couldn't write on the back of a postage stamp, with a marker pen. As a result there is no development or value in him and indeed it did end up with his past being used for nothing more than getting him into the confrontation that sees him end up in court. Freeman plays it well regardless, although it helps that without the fame aspect being developed, he is basically playing Tim from The Office all over again, right down to his boss being a Gareth-lite character. I'm not sure why they even tried to make him look 16 years old because it just didn't work and stood out as even more flawed by the desperate props of hair and braces forced on him. Fortune and Davis don't have much to do but Kennedy is funny while Burns is good value as a lawyer that even Lionel Hutz could beat.
Overall then this film was a disappointment. The plot summary suggests that it could have been a painful comedy in the mould of The Office but the delivery seems to ignore that aspect other than using the character's past and present as a way to get into the courtroom for a scenario that Arrested Development did much funnier and with more imagination several years ago. The way the film fails to explore Greg is the main failing but it stands out even more obviously than it should because the film itself doesn't produce a lot of laughs to distract the viewer either.
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