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Jackboots on Whitehall Review

Seeing the unrivalled success that puppetry has within Team America: World Police, some wise producers decided this system had better be applied to the United Kingdom and its rich history. Thrusting a childish, fictional setting to the streets of London during wartime, Jackboots on Whitehall is an amalgamation of talented performers coming together to drizzle grey paste into the ears of any audience doomed to listen. The Battle of Britain is lost to the Nazi forces, and their invasion causes a ragtag bunch of characters to defend the homeland from horrid invaders, peculiarly voiced by Alan Cumming and Tom Wilkinson. 

Big names are the main draw of Jackboots on Whitehall. Ewan McGregor leads the charge as Chris, a lad from Cornwall in love with the Vicar’s daughter, Daisy (Rosamund Pike). Hearing that the war is turning on its axis, this group of southerners including Daisy’s father (voiced by Richard E. Grant) and Tom (Stephen Merchant) rally toward London to aide Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall). To give credit where it is due, Spall and Grant offer up some fun moments. A mere trickle of quality in a sea of horrid, nauseating nonsense, but a silver lining that fades in and out all too often. Competent performers as they are, nobody within this piece is any match for such horrendous writing or direction.  

Edward and Rory McHenry assemble this piece, presumably by gathering up the toys of their childhood and painstakingly stitching S.S. uniforms to Barbie dolls. As entertaining a premise that may be, it strikes more of Welcome to Marwen than it does Small Soldiers. Love for a topic is one thing, but the efforts put in here by this crew are oddly embarrassing. The belief that there is something of quality or worth to be found in this piece is dearly held by its directing duo, but they fall incredibly short with their dated pop culture references, oddly cheap comedy and underwhelming action setpieces, which boil down to nothing more than children re-enacting battles that never happened with Action Man toys.  

Agonizingly painful, poorly performed and relying all too much on shoddy puppetry, Jackboots on Whitehall is fun under the influence of alcohol with friends. Lots of alcohol. When your vision is blurred and your focus shifting from drink to drink, you don’t pick up on the little issues that frequent the screen. One or two lines are great, but those few chuckles are not worth the wait that Jackboots on Whitehall insists upon. Perhaps it has the potential for some layer of cult phenomenon, but that notion is doubtful at best when the best joke in the film is about the leading character having fat hands. A peculiar, forgotten oddity that will either resurface as a masterpiece or toil in obscurity for the rest of human existence. The latter would be preferable.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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