I watched the 2019 David Copperfield film recently, having bought the DVD because it was on offer in Tesco. It highlighted, or so the trailers had had me believe, the humour of Dickens’ work. Yes, there is humour in Dickens, it’s not all over-long descriptions and no pictures.
The cast looked promising (Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Paul Whitehouse) and it was directed by Armando Iannucci. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, pretty much everything, in my opinion. If you do get a chance to see this film, please don’t. It is completely underwhelming. Nothing at all like the “Incredibly Funny” quote from the Guardian pasted on the sleeve of the DVD. The checkout operator hadn’t demagnetised the security tag, so I destroyed the case trying to get it open. I’m not bothered, because I won’t be keeping it.
I know film adaptations have to select which parts of the story to take, but this film took liberties too far.
- Having dispensed with his early schooldays, it moved two characters from that period (Creakle and Tungay) to the bottling plant. It’s not as if they were central to the plot line. The only reason for their inclusion would have been the comic relief, but even that didn’t work.
- Other characters were combined (such as Mr Wickfield and Dr Strong) and/or brought it at the wrong time, while poor old Tommy Traddles was given only a passing mention.
- The humour of Daniel Peggotty’s repeated “drown-ded” was merged into a single “they both drowned”, which completely missed the point.
- The timeline was wrong. The film had Copperfield’s mother dying while he was working at the bottling plant. In the book, he went to work at the bottling plant after his mother died (because his cruel stepfather was too mean to pay the school fees).
- Uriah Heap’s fraudulent activity was shown as having been exposed by Agnes Wickfield, not by Mr Micawber as in the book. In fact, Mr Micawber did not have nearly as central a part to the story line as he should have had.
- Here’s the biggest injustice. Not once did Uriah Heep say “’umble”, nor Mr Micawber say “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery”. How can any adaption of David Copperfield omit these two quotes?
This anti-climax set me thinking of other shows that I have found to be lack-lustre. There may be a few controversial thoughts here. Apologies in advance if I’ve lambasted one of your favourites.
Fame: I was probably already biased by memories of the TV show of the 80s when I watched this musical. It didn’t have much of a story line; but seemed to be a collection of loosely connected scenes. The characters merged in my head so I couldn’t really remember who was whom (which may be why I found the story line difficult to follow). Basically, I didn’t invest in the characters or plot. Rather than wondering how it would all work out in the end, I found that I didn’t really care.
Cats: This, apparently, is extremely popular. Again, it is a set of loosely connected scenes, but is based on people pretending to be cats. Or cats pretending to be people. Too much anthropomorphism.
Starlight Express: Speaking of anthropomorphism, in this musical we have people pretending to be trains pretending to be people. I’ll leave it there.
High School Musical: A few years ago, Mrs Chippy was in the orchestra for a production of this musical. Consequently, I heard the music a lot. Despite this I would have difficulty humming any of the tunes. A whole musical without a memorable tune? Back to the drawing board.
The Breakfast Club: My problem here is the whole set-up. We have a group of school children on a detention on a Saturday (how does that happen?) but the supervising teacher leaves them to their own devices. Really? Where is the disciplinary nature of the punishment? Where is the duty of care to the pupils?
Dirty Dancing: Again, the overall setting leaves me confused. A holiday camp where people learn ballroom dancing? What’s that all about. And the film’s not very good.
The Greatest Showman: A show needs to have one or two ‘show stopper’ numbers – a big song-and-dance routine that involves the whole cast. But “one or two” is the key. ‘The Greatest Showman’ turned every number into a blockbuster; even the ones that started as ballads. I got fed up with them; it was too repetitive.
Friends: shallow characters, improbable setting; not even very funny. Never understood the popularity of this show.
8 out of 10 does Countdown: As a one-off this mashup might have been mildly amusing. But to make it into a series? And then another and another? There are only so many times you can keep making the same joke. If I want to watch Countdown, I’ll watch Countdown. If I want to watch 8 Out of 10 Cats, I’ll watch 8 Out Of 10 cats. I neither need nor want to watch them both at the same time.
Evita: I should make it clear that here I’m talking about the 1996 film starring Madonna. I’ve not seen the stage musical – but think I would like to. I first saw this film on a plane trip and thought my low opinion could have been due to the uncomfortable viewing position. I bought (or maybe rented if it was that long ago) the DVD to watch at home. My opinion wasn’t changed. The film went on and on and wasn’t very interesting. I’m not even sure that I watched all to the end.
The Horse Whisperer: This was recommended to me by my father who enthused about the impressive scenery. It starred Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas (I’m not sure who she is, but understand that she is reasonably famous), so was bound to be good. Yes, the scenery might have been impressive, but not good enough to make up for the other deficiencies of the film. It was tedious in the extreme. The story line started well, but quickly tailed off (no pun intended) and ran out long before the film ended. I felt that it could have been so much more. Again, file under “too long; not very interesting”. Watch a nature documentary if you want impressive scenery.
So, that’s some of my less-favourite films and shows. As I said at the beginning, apologies if I’ve slated some of your favourites. Maybe one day I’ll write something about some of my favourites. Of course, this one would be top of the list: