Go for the cheap laughs, but look closer at what might have been if the characters had not been so tied to their TV legacy.
This review of the film The Nan Movie does not contain spoilers.
Catherine Tate is probably better known as a companion to Doctor Who to many people that have heard her name, but before traveling in The Tardis, she was better known for her sketch comedy, and one of those sketch characters was Nan. Nan was featured regularly in Catherine’s show, and the character was a cantankerous old lady, with literally no filter, and an opinion on everyone, often foisted on to her devoted grandson who would visit his Nan at the start of most episodes.
It’s a gag that has been used lots of times before, and the laughs pretty much come from the outrageous language that elderly Nan would use usually to the massive embarrassment of those around her. Catherine Tate is a great actor, but I was never much of a fan of her comedy show, so it’s fair to say I wasn’t expecting too much.
There was a tradition in the UK, to take popular comedy shows, and make big-screen versions of them. Films based on comedy classics such as Are You Being Served?, Porridge, The Likely Lads, and even stateside, Entourage and Sex and the City spring to mind, and the often hit and miss nature of the productions again didn’t give me much hope.
However, The Nan Movie is a strange beast, and when watching it, it feels like two movies spliced together.
The plot sees Nan receive a letter from her estranged sister in Ireland, who is dying from cancer. Nan’s grandson, played by Mathew Horne, decides that she must visit her sister before she passes, and despite Nan’s reluctance to go, they embark on a road trip from London to Ireland to see her. So the die is cast and the two set off, and the film plays out as you would expect, with madcap adventures, and meeting various weird and wonderful people along the way.
However, the film is spliced with the back story of Nan and her sister, explaining slowly why the fallout occurred over the backdrop of WW2, and here is where the film excels. The story of Nan and her sister is genuinely engaging, and although still humorous, it does not have the over-the-top shock value that is present in the other scenes. You find yourself warming to the characters and the period setting and costumes are well presented.
It is this part of the film that was much more interesting, and I cannot help but think that underneath the gross and shocking humor in the main scenes, there is a much better movie. Perhaps I was just not a fan of the type of comedy that Nan is associated with, but the back story was so much more intriguing than anticipated.
I suppose that the tightrope being walked was the expectations of fans of the TV sketch show, and moviegoers who may expect more, so the finished product comes across as a bit of a mash-up.
As well as the time frames, there is also the inclusion of animated sequences that probably saved on the budget for sequences, but again only jars the viewer out of the proceedings. Why this aspect is included is beyond me, there is a line about Nan’s grandson being an animator on YouTube, or something, but it really did not work for me.
On the whole, The Nan Movie provides fans of Tate’s humor with what they want, but frustratingly, behind the chaos, there is a real story here that makes the film feel tonally off.
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