Jackboots on Whitehall


Dir: Edward McHenry, Rory McHenry
Star: (voice) Ewan McGregor, Dominic West, Richard E. Grant, Timothy Spall

Using techniques last popularized by Gerry Anderson, this tells a very alternate history of World War II, where the Nazis succeeded in invading England through a tunnel that goes straight into Trafalgar Square. This sends Churchill (Spall) on the run, protected by brave farm-lad with big hands from Kent, Chris (McGregor), and brash American pilot, Fiske (West); they take refuge up by Hadrian's Wall, which in this universe is still required to keep out the cannibalistic savages to the North. But could the Scots be the saviours of Britain in its darkest hour?

Yeah, it's kinda thin, plot-wise, and there are times when you think this would probably have been better off as a 30-minute short, with the material feeling stretched too thin for a feature. There's no shortage of famous names here - or rather, famous voices, as you don't get to see any of them, since they're all played by animatronic puppets. Which is kinda disappointing, and not many of them stand out as voice actors - Grant, playing a near-psychotic vicar, is perhaps the best. It certainly plays fast and loose with history, and throws in nods to anything from Zulu to Lethal Weapon [the latter might give you a clue as to who is the leader of the Scots!], as well as most obviously, the square-jawed heroics of WW2 movies.

Technically, it's a marvel, with great use of miniatures, particularly in the battle scenes, which would put many a live-action film to shame. But it feels like that's where the effort all went: while understandable, I was left feeling like there wasn't much more than a cute gimmick. All the characters, on both sides of the lines, are no more than a collection of stereotypes - while this was probably entirely deliberate, that alone doesn't make them interesting, or even amusing. There's more to satire than pointing our clicés by aping them, and that's the difference between this and the far more successful Team America. Despite a cast well in excess of its weight, and deserving some props for at least being different, this remains largely toothless as satire.

C
[July 2013]


Toy soldiers
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