Movie Review by Kris Griffiths
Starring: Lee Evans, Kathy Burke, Linda Bassett, Eric Byrne
Director: Tony Grounds
The Martins – “The kind of family you’d cross the road to avoid.” In two pages of the film’s press notes this phrase is used no less than six times. The film itself painfully strains to drive this point home, successfully portraying them as the ultimate family from hell, but does it do so in a funny or poignant way? No and no.
The film was originally entitled TOSSPOT, and it’s not hard to see why. Robert Martin (Lee Evans) is a sad tosser, unemployed and unemployable, who spends all his time entering competitions rather than trying to find a job. His wife Angie (Kathy Burke) is long-suffering and past caring, and his mother-in-law, Anthea, is an annoying old slapper who wears skimpy tops and skintight pedal pushers. His son, Little Bob, is the constantly bullied school thicko whilst his fourteen-year-old daughter, Katie, is heavily pregnant and doesn’t know who the father is. You get the picture.
After failing to win yet another dream holiday competition in his local newspaper, Robert snaps and goes on a pathetic empty-gun-waving angst rampage. After furiously waving his shooter at his next-door neighbour, his son’s bemused teacher and the editor of the local newspaper, he turns up at the winning couple’s house and steals the keys and directions to the luxury villa after locking them in the basement with some water and a plate of sandwiches. After whisking away his disbelieving family to their villa on the Isle of Man, their holiday is predictably cut short when the police catch up with him. The holiday itself is not without high drama – he is beaten up by Angie after she finds out he’s had an affair and he ends up having to deliver his own daughter’s baby. Lovely.
“There are a lot of broad laughs in the film but it’s also a very moving portrait of one man who knows he’s let his family down” crows writer and director Tony Grounds. This is wishful thinking indeed. For me there were only two light laughs in the whole of this “bittersweet comedy”. The first one arrives when Robert dictates the message “you have ruined my life” over the phone to the newspaper editor’s secretary, who as an afterthought adds to the words “you c**t” before handing it to him. Then when Robert steals the editor’s smart clothes at gunpoint shortly afterwards, the spectacle of him bowling around in an Armani suit and white trainers managed to force a smile. But that was it. And as for the bittersweetness of the film, the attempts at pathos were cringingly poor. Casting Lee Evans in this, his first serious role, is not unlike casting Jim Carrey in a weepy – it doesn’t work. As swirling strings soar above the end scenes where he pulls a baby out of Katie, where he’s led tearfully away by the police and the tableau of him joyously holding his new grandson aloft, it all had the opposite effect – it didn’t work. It just looked very silly.