John Landis | 88 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | UK / English | 15 / R
This is a true story
Except for the parts that are not
As an opening title card, you’d have to go some way to beat that. It’s also very apt: John Landis’ return to feature directing after a twelve-year break is based on real events (a pair of Irish grave robbers who operated in Edinburgh in the 1820s), but it takes massive liberties with what really happened, particularly the ending (but I won’t spoil that here). There’s no real surprise in that — it’s quite hard to make a comedy out of real-life serial killers, I should think.
And it is funny. Well, quite funny. It’s amiably light rather than laugh-out-loud hilarious. The titular characters are played by Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis, one who has a pedigree for comedy and one who doesn’t so much, but both are solid. Pegg’s role was originally to be played by David Tennant (he had to pull out due to commitments to an ultimately-cancelled US TV series). I like Tennant, but the replacement was probably for the best — Pegg plays up the comedy without overdoing it, and handles the slightly dramatic stuff well too, whereas I fear Tennant might have over-egged both for this film’s particular tone. Or maybe not, who knows.
As seems to be the case fairly often these days (I feel like I’m noting it in more and more reviews, anyway) there’s a host of famous cameos and recognisable faces. This time I won’t ruin it by listing them, but there’s a regular stream to look out for.
I sense there’s a serious movie to be made about the real Burke and Hare… though I believe there are several others, so maybe one of them does it well. This won’t serve anyone as a history lesson, but then that’s not its job. As a knockabout black comedy, it works well enough. I think I’ve given probably-lesser comedies higher scores before now, but in a renewed spirit of trying to be more accurate — and maybe less forgivingly generous — this gets