Economies, crashes, and Terry Jones collide in a barely feature length, feature film documentary all about the 2008 financial crisis. How it happened, a history lesson on previous crises, while a graphics design company and some Muppets trick the audience into watching CBeebies.
So at some point Terry Jones clearly wanted to sit down with his kids and talk about some very important issues. You know the ones about the very state of our financial infrastructure, and decided to make a film about it. You see, this is a piece of edutainment, it’s a deliberate attempt to explain the financial crisis in a clear, fun and not boring way that appeals to children. But, it’s also vying for audiences of all ages, as in this is supposed to be a film about a universal topic of interest that can engage everyone.
Here’s the thing, any grown adult who’s aware of the financial crisis will have gone out of their way to read about and understand it for themselves. Those who haven’t don’t care, and those who don’t know enough but want to understand should go watch Inside Job; a brilliant documentary on the subject, with fantastic production values, engaging, confrontational interviews with some well known economists, told in a serious, adult manner. (And if you want a fictionalised alternative, look to The Big Short or Margin Call)
Boom Bust Boom on the other hand cheapens the seriousness of the topic by using Muppetry, and snazzy cartoonish visual effects, and all the quotes from historically important economists all have funny voices, because this is fun, we’re learning! All of that ends up being detrimental to the learning process, because the visual effects end up distracting you with all their colourful, jaunty animation. The information goes in your ear and vaporised by the fun entering your eye holes. A child might have been entertained, but would he/she be able to explain the repercussions of giving out high-risk loans? Personally, I doubt it.
What’s most confusing is how the first half of the film throws a lot of the U-rated cartoon humour, with the occasional Terry Jones interjection and talking heads, then switches the pacing the other way around with a strict focus on interviews, with some handy graphics to help illustrate some points. It’s as if the films target audience suddenly switched from primary school kids to broad, middle class adults half way through. Which is a shame because the switch is where the film works, there are some interesting insights from professional economists dolling out the how’s and why’s of it all, but the adult audience would have buggered off by this point.
For a man as charismatic, intelligent and talented as Terry Jones, you would think he would have put together a comprehensive case study, about an hour long, with some great adult humour between all the talky heads, and see it featured on BBC Four. Instead we just have a slightly irritating educational video your history teacher put on to distract you so he could nod off for a bit.
Dir: Bill Jones, Terry Jones, Ben Timlett
Scr: Terry Jones, Theo Kocken
Cast: Dirk Bezemer, Zvi Bodie, Willem Buiter, Philip Bulcock, John Cusack, Tony Hertz, André Jacquemin, Terry Jones, Daniel Kahneman, George Magnus, Lucy Prebble, Laurie Santos, Robert Shiller, Sweder van Wijnbergen
Prd: Bill Jones, Theo Kocken, Greg McManus, Volkert Struycken, Ben Timlett, Justin Weyers
DOP: Nick Rutter
Music: André Jacquemin, Terry Jones
Run Time: 74 mins
Boom Bust Boom releases in cinemas on March 23rd, and On Demand on the 29th.