Right. This shouldn’t take long. Keith Lemon: The Film is god awful. There, that should do it. That’s all you need to know. If all you were after was a recommendation on what to spend your hard earned cash this weekend, then let those seven words help narrow it down for you. For anyone looking for a more substantial way to kill the next five minutes, please read on and find out why.
If I’m honest it’s difficult to know where to start. The movie has a great many glaring faults, endless examples of inept film making and showed a complete lack of understanding as to how to construct a piece of entertainment. Let’s start with the most important failing. It isn’t funny. The theatre I elected to watch this 90 minute car crash in was full of college students and hipsters who use irony as an excuse to laugh at anything. In this theatre there was no laughter. The place was silent.
How do I know this? Well for one I was there and for another I was so bored by the fifteen minute mark I started to listen out for audience reaction. I got nothing. Not even when Keith gets his penis out? Nope. What about when he tries to get street youths to sing along with Billy Ocean? Nadda. How about when he shows Verne Troyer his haemorrhoids? What the hell do you think!? When you can’t get laughter out of juveniles for the most juvenile of humour, you know you’re doing something majorly wrong.
One of the factors we can attribute to this complete lack of hilarity is just how contrived everything feels. The jokes are so forced you’re not sure if they’re trying too hard to make a situation funny or if they aren’t trying at all. Part of the problem lies in the fact that Keith Lemon’s roots are in the realm of the unscripted and the five minute sketch. He was created for short bursts and improvised banter with unsuspecting individuals.
Making this even worse is the fact that the production of the film is so poor. The editing is headache inducing with no sense of comic timing. I was persuaded to see this film by a few witty moments in the trailer, but bound up in the constraint of a narrative structure the gags fall apart. When the people in marketing know more about constructing a joke than the film makers do you know something has gone terribly wrong.
Another problem is that Keith Lemon: The Film views the importance of celebrity cameos in the same way that most comedies view the importance of jokes. It is the films life blood, its reason for being and after a while you start to suspect its the reason the rest of the film looks so shoddy. I mean even the pay for Z-List celebrities must start adding up when you get to the twentieth one.
They also represent a completely wasted opportunity that intensifies the films flaws. This is the point the film tips over from bad to “What were they thinking?!”. If the point of Keith Lemon is to take the piss out of celebrities, they why is he shying away from the dozens of chances he has here? Why are these fame hungry wasters being used solely for reaction shots and piss poor plot progression? Where is the edgy to over the line satire that made Celebrity Juice such a massive hit?
The answer to these questions is simple. Keith Lemon: The Film is entirely the wrong kind of movie; from conception to completion. By making it a feature length movie subservient to a narrative and comedy plot clichés, Leigh Francis has exiled his once controversial creation into an indifferent limbo. Like Sacha Baron Cohen did back in 2002 with Ali G Indahouse.
In the case of both films they took characters whose shock factor came from the absurdity of their behaviour in the face of the public and their irreverent attitude towards celebrities. The jokes were sharp and to the point but more importantly over in half an hour. The natural bluntness of the format helped their creators keep the humour fresh and when the personalities are this extreme and the humour so limiting it is essential that you don’t let them out stay their welcome. Cohen later found a format that his characters faired a lot better in when Borat made the world laugh behind the gaps in its fingers by exposing the latent Anti-Semitism in America. He realised that he needed to adapt a cinematic format around the character instead of trying to adapt the character to a cinematic format.
By making this film one that is in its very nature scripted, time consuming and thoroughly prepared, the celebrities and their agents are privy to the production notes and scripts. They make sure their integrity remains intact, that no lines are crossed and no boundaries are over stepped and what’s more there will be paper trails as long as the M25 to make sure no joke written without permission will go un-sued. This leaves no room for surprise and no option for an ambush. This leaves any satire that Leigh Francis has managed to retain over the years crippled and replaced with desperate toilet humour, making the film weak, toothless and most unforgivably of all, boring.
Does Leigh Francis have it in him to turn things around and make a far more focused movie with more intelligent comedy that satirises popular culture instead of just indulging in it? I’m not sure any more. Leigh’s comedy has surrounded itself in celebrity for so long that he’s seriously running the risk of being assimilated by it, becoming as vacuous and superficial as the celebrities he ridicules for being so. And finally with Keith Lemon: The Film I think he may have finally found point from which there is no coming back.