RETURNING from a brief hiatus, Film Torments emerges from the refreshing sauna of quality cinema into the cesspool of the fucking usual. Here’s Rich’s take on Keith fucking Lemon.
Spinning a sketch character off into a feature-length cinematic movie rarely works, but it has been known to succeed. Saturday Night Live have managed it exactly twice with Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World (the latter of which I stupidly forgot about when I did Blues Brothers 2000 for Torments a while back – it’s great) and they’ve been at it for forty years. Johnny English was a decent family comedy based on a series of adverts, and Sacha Baron Cohen has pulled off a comedy classic with Borat before totally tanking with Bruno.
So there was a glimmer of hope when Leigh Francis, of Bo Selecta and Celebrity Juice fame, announced that his omnipresent signature character Keith Lemon was going to star in a movie. For those of you whose TV package fucked up massively and left off every single ITV channel, Keith Lemon is EVERYWHERE. Although the character is best-known for the incredibly raunchy panel show Celebrity Juice, he appears in pre-watershed adverts, hosts a heavily revamped relaunch of Through the Keyhole on Saturday nights and is a regular guest on This Morning where he works relatively clean.
Before I lay into the film, I must stress that I am very much a fan of Keith Lemon, but only really when he’s working on panel shows or other half-scripted ventures. Francis is the best kind of clown; a wildcard who puts everybody who shares the screen with him on edge. The quality of Celebrity Juice episodes can vary depending on the quality of the guests, but Francis carries the show with quick wit and frantic unpredictability which makes it must-see telly. Although Captains Fearne “Nostrils” Cotton and Holly “Willoughbooby” Willoughby share the limelight, they’re really just along for the ride and even they can still be gobsmacked by what the guy comes out with.
The biggest red flag of this film is that Keith Lemon is now 100% scripted, standing on the X and reciting his memorised lines. With the immediacy gone, and the lack of six unsuspecting C-listers sitting with their knees trembling waiting for their turn to be roasted, Keith Lemon is unjustifiably obnoxious. The script for this film can’t have taken long to write, because it uses Lemon’s tired catchphrases (from “Bang Tidy” to “Smash your backdoors in” to “Sha-ting”) in place of dialogue and there’s nothing original or new to declare. I didn’t expect this film to be sophisticated or insightful, but I expected to laugh. Even in a healthily populated cinema the most I heard was the occasional shrug of acknowledgement.
Movies based on established characters have to work very hard to satisfy. The South Park film, for example, went to an epic scale and turned the film into a full-blown musical. The Muppets took advantage of the higher budget by showing the puppets doing stunts and routines they could never do on a three-camera television show. Borat travelled halfway across America filming hours upon hours of candid footage so they could pare it down to the very best. You can’t just give people a feature-length episode, and that’s sadly what this is.
Even the promise of more raunch is pretty pointless when there’s little Lemon doesn’t get away with on ITV2. I was surprised in the cinema that they continued to blur out Lemon’s outlandishly large (and implicitly augmented) prosthetic penis as if Boogie Nights had never existed and the world still isn’t ready. Apparently there’s an uncensored version on DVD, but I’d prefer not to seek it out.
The film is packed with cameos, most of whom are regular Juice guests; he rakes in the two most easily rakeable Spice Girls (Emma and Mel C) all to set up for a cameo by Francis’ own Mel B parody from the Bo Selecta days. Celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo, who also works better without a script, caters for a party chock full of people who will do anything just to have an IMDB page. Every single joke made by or about these celebrities are just continuations of running gags from Celebrity Juice, such as D’Acampo actually hailing from Sheffield or Billy Ocean being Keith’s real father.
Fearne and Holly of course make an appearance, but while they have charisma to burn on TV and radio it’s devastatingly clear that neither of these women are actresses. Fearne and Holly are two celebrities I can comfortably say are totally authentic, so when they’re saying forced lines about how Fearne fancies Keith (which, if you’ve seen even one second of Juice, you’ll know is meant to be ironic) and Holly says “I need to go and powder my boobs” (another joke usually made by Lemon only) it’s annoyingly insincere.
The most publicised guest appearance is by the beautiful Kelly Brook, who is hard to define as “actress” although she has plenty of credits. She’s better known as a model and TV presenter, and here she does a serviceable job. She must have had fun making the film, as she covered Fearne’s maternity leave for a whole season of Juice and has much better chemistry with Keith there than here. Brook is one of the few people playing themselves who at least seems like they’re acting, but unfortunately she’s being sold on her looks over any comic talent.
Of the more experienced actors making appearances, the first enjoyable cameo is by Paddy McGuinness, a long-time friend of Francis and of Celebrity Juice. He doesn’t play himself, instead playing Keith’s mate Gary from Leeds. He didn’t make me laugh much (because he’s still reading from this script) but he had the potential to do so, which is the best we can hope for.
The surprising saving grace is Mini-Me himself, Verne Troyer, who plays Keith’s guardian angel Archimedes. Troyer, with his tiny stature and high-pitched voice, has been used more as a gimmicky prop in his many film roles, but the guy can really act. He’s not of the calibre of a Dinklage or Davis and will never have their careers, but he is the only actor in this film really putting any heart into it. Therefore, he is the only person who went up in my estimations rather than down.
Sadly, the promising attempt to bring Keith Lemon to the big screen was a disaster. It doesn’t seem to have slowed his TV career down, but Francis also doesn’t seem to like talking about it. Apparently he’s written a sequel, but is postponing it to work on other projects (read: literally anything else!). I don’t think Francis is incapable of a good screenplay, but Keith Lemon isn’t the character to play. I wish him luck, and I hope Celebrity Juice sticks around, but I won’t queue up for Keith Lemon 2.