Sarah Francis is about to start a new teaching job when first her boyfriend dumps her, and then her grandmother dies, leaving her Patrick, a prized and pampered pug. Chaos, a fun run and a love triangle ensue… for Sarah, that is: Patrick has a much less interesting time. A Disney dud.
My son said the trailer for Patrick looked intriguing because it was short, and gave little away. He said he wished more trailers were like that, so I agreed to take him. I hadn’t even seen the teaser trailer, so knew significantly less than my son about the film for a change. I assumed that it was going to be a light comedy about a mischievous animal (a dog version of Paddington, perhaps); or even better, a variation on The Secret Life of Pets. But no: Patrick is barely about Patrick the famous pug at all. He is not much more than a plot device in a Bridget Jones story. A little bit more, but not much.
My son was disappointed to find the bits he enjoyed most were scenes he’d seen already in the trailer. And I felt conned.
OK, Patrick did have some good features. But not many. Forty-eight hours after watching it, and all but one are difficult to remember. I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, that one memorable good feature was…
Actually, there were several – no lots – of famous names amongst the cast. But more later. Back to the story for now. What a dull one! Honestly: Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Grange Hill. The Bridget Jones element even had matching blokes: the Colin Firth type was played by Tom Bennett and the Hugh Grant type by Ed Skrein. I’ve only seen the original once before, but it’s such an established feature of British entertainment general knowledge that it was very easy to see where the plot was going.
The school Sarah (Beattie Edmondson) worked for included many familiar components too, though not from Grange Hill alone. There was the sneering teacher (Adrian Scarborough), the sporty teacher (Emily Atack), the dotty teacher (Jennifer Saunders); the streetwise kids, the troubled teen and – of course – the grumpy caretaker (Roy Hudd).
Patrick was directed by Mandie Fletcher, who has directed two Black Adder series as well as a bunch of other well known British comedies. So surely she can deliver better than this: perhaps Fletcher should have stuck to the more grown-up, witty titles, as Patrick really suffered from lack of any kind of excitement or intellect. Fletcher was one of three writers credited; and for all of them, this is their first writing credit. This really smacks of complacency to me: if an experienced director pulls together some favorite British acting talent and a couple of others to help with the script, that should make it OK, but, sorry, that really didn’t work.
Ah yes, the cast. You could watch Patrick simply for the fun of spotting famous faces: as well as the ones I’ve already mentioned, there are Cherie Lunghi, Peter Davison and Meera Syal. But they all have very undemanding supporting roles, which do not showcase their acting at all. (Actually, I think Lunghi gave the best performance out of those familiar faces, but it does seem to come easily to her.) Beattie Edmondson does fine with the role she is given but spends so much of it in a deeply fed-up state that her character is hardly endearing. The best actor (apart from Lunghi) was Emilia Jones, the “troubled teen” type; but her character was so poorly written that I only just noticed the person playing it.
And as for the dog, there were a few scenes just for him, which involved showing off how spoilt he was, how fussy he was about food, one that showed him making a mess of the flat and another later in which he got kind of lost. But half of those scenes involved him doing nothing at all. He was amusing, but barely a character.
All in all, Patrick was a great Disney let-down: dog owners have been let down by having such a minimal dog-related plot, Sarah Francis deserved a better script for her first leading role, the supporting cast are not given enough attention to warrant turning up, and the plot was boringly linear. Don’t bother! If the dog interests you, spend a couple of hours instead visiting an RSPCA sanctuary and give your tenner to them.
Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.