Chunky Monkey Review
Chunky Monkey is a publicist’s dream film; surrounded by a flotilla of law suits, including one by Julie Andrews, this plucky Brit flick has seen off the corporate giants and finally hoves into port.
Donald Leek (Threfall) is an unassuming bachelor, obsessed with keep fit and Julie Andrews. As he explains direct to camera, though his particular sexual preference is not something Julie herself is likely to indulge in, he has been singularly fortunate in meeting a willing lookalike for sessions involving a tub of Chunky Monkey icecream.
On this particular evening Donald has his work cut out for him; before ‘Julie’ arrives he must dispose of the corpse of Mr Azam, the owner of his local Indian restaurant. Mr Azam fatally offended Donald when he failed to send him a Christmas card, and is now paying the price. Cleaning up the mess is hard enough, but the process keeps being interrupted by a series of random visitors: a pair of evangelical skinheads (Stapleton and Nussbaum); Trevor (McFarlane), the Jamaican son of God; Donald’s cousin Frank (Schofield) and his pornstar girlfriend (Woodcock), as well as Donald’s neighbour Beryl (Steadman) and Pierre (Mangan), a third rate cabaret singer. Can Donald get rid of them, Mr Azam’s body, and get himself cleaned up in time for ‘Julie’s’ imminent arival?
Chunky Monkey has some clever ideas and potential for amusement, but the execution is sadly lacking in polish. It’s been given a micro-cinematic release to drum up publicity for the dvd which is out on August 22. The budget is clearly tiny and the entire film takes place in Donald’s flat, so it ends up feeling stagey and theatrical. Everything is told, not shown – so Donald has to describe meeting the Julie Andrews lookalike – and feels very slow. There’s little action, but the few fight scenes are poorly shot and unconvincing.
The performances are ok, but apart from Stephen Mangan’s amusing turn as Pierre, the Tenerife-bound cabaret singer, the deadpan comedy falls pretty flat and there are very few genuinely funny moments. People tend to be dismissive of comedy, but when you see a bad one you start to appreciate the real artistry behind a good comic performance. David Threfall and Alison Steadman are both more than capable of making people laugh but they need better material than this.
Sadly, the story behind the making of the film is more interesting than the film itself! Unilever threatened to sue over the use of the Ben & Jerry’s brand name, as they own the copyright; Rogers & Hammerstein tried to sue after EMI licensed a track from the Sound of Music to this ‘depraved’film’; EMI then began legal action after realising that they might lose the $50 million a year R&H back catalogue; the creator of Chunky Monkey the kid’s cartoon sued on the grounds that they felt the name should not be used in an adult context; and finally Julie Andrews herself, who was less than thrilled about being portrayed in such a fashion.
And yet for all the talk of depravity and controversy the film is actually quite bland (it comes back to telling rather than showing), and its deliberate wackiness feels forced. The fact that it got a 15 certificate says it all.
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