It Couldn’t Happen Here Review

Wasting not a single second on ramping up the oddities of its work and narrative, It Couldn’t Happen Here opens with its title track, and Neil Tennant, recognisable half of synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys comes into frame. His perfect black suit and suave maturity, the white scarf draped around him, clashing with the brisk and brutish scenes of a seaside town, where such sophistication and elegance is not lacking, but hidden away. Musicians are, as time has proven, able to adapt to the world of film. Half their shtick is performance, the other half is singing, but It Couldn’t Happen Here is fearful to relinquish the musical cues and charms, populating its background noise and its moments of stuttered comedy with the work of Tennant and Chris Lowe. 

Considering how often the music of the Pet Shop Boys is featured, it is rather odd that their music never has any connection with what appears in the narrative. Some moments that provide vivid, Monty Python-like slapstick, immediately placed next to a scene hoping to rely on poetic witticisms and wry charms. The mix is a messy one, and not endearing enough to carry Lowe and Tennant to their expectations of stardom. As much as I love the music throughout, there doesn’t seem to be any understanding of how to utilise it. Pet Shop Boys and their craft, at this stage in their careers, didn’t offer up mass musings on a variety of topics, so the frequent repetition of the first verse and chorus of each of their biggest hits is not only expected, but horridly annoying. Ripping dialogue straight from the lyrics crafted by Tennant and Lowe, it doesn’t come across as smart or finely tuned, but annoying and lacking in creativity. 

A shame, too, especially when director Jack Bond does make the best of a bad situation. His nightmarish visions are heightened by the high synth-notes of It’s a Sin, paired with the terrors of a pier resort. Surrender your logic, for the blind priests, golden-clad costumes, biker gangs in front of magic mirrors and soothsayers in candle-lit rooms will spin your head with such manic horrors. With these terrors filling the screen often, it is a sad shame that they are meaningless. Bond, Tennant and Lowe must have had some initial thought process through these varied and specific inclusions, but such a method never makes it through. Any film with ventriloquism should be handled with caution, and It Couldn’t Happen Here is no exception.  

What It Couldn’t Happen Here wishes to say is beyond comprehension. So many odd tropes and disfigured caricatures make the rounds, all while Pet Shop Boys tracks riff in the background. Maybe one of the first feature-length music videos, and hopefully the last. Only one or two pockets of fun, exceptionally British comedy and whimsy paired with fantastic music, you’re better off listening to Actually. As a concept for film, though, It Couldn’t Happen Here is inconceivable and undefinable. It couldn’t happen, it shouldn’t happen, but it did. The result is a film that will confuse and corrupt even the most hardcore of Pet Shop Boys fans, and I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.  

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