Sunday, 24 June 2007

Film: Are You Being Served - The Movie

Lowdown: The Grace Brothers gang on vacation.
Review:
Are You Being Served is one of my all time favorite TV shows. Having watched it time and time again as a child, and as I re-watch it now, I realize how this series had a significant part in shaping my sense of humor.
A British show from the seventies, it follows the "adventures" of the men's and ladies' apparel salespeople from the Grace Brothers department store as they go about with all sorts of pretty foolish (and not so politically correct by today's standards) sexual innuendos and as they do foolish stuff in general. Enhanced by rather witty scripts, good self inflicting humor on the British way of life, and excellent chemistry between the actors this is one series that still works on me despite its advanced age.
But then comes the film. Riding on the success of the TV series it tries to take things one step forwards, but it only manages taking it many steps backwards. Unlike the TV episodes, the film doesn't take place at the shop; here, the crew goes on to a vacation in Costa Plonca, Spain (no, I don't think the place really exists), having been sent by Mr Grace there in order to accommodate for shop renovations. This idea has been used in the TV series before the film was made and that is pretty much the story of this film: all the jokes have been used in the TV series before the film was made, too. Obviously, once the gang hits Costa Plonca things are not going as expected, and they end up taking part in a revolution (I assume this was acceptable as at the time the film was made Spain was not a democracy).
Aside of the fact the jokes are all recycled, the entire movie formula doesn't work at all. The attempt to make things larger than life for the cinematic version fails, the jokes are not funny, and the plot is all way too ridiculous: gone altogether is the humor based upon what people say, to be replaced by silly situation comedy style gags which usually takes just a minor part in the series. Add extremely poor production values, featuring a soundtrack that seems to have come directly from an old porn movie, and you just wish the film to end so you can go back to watch the series.
One interesting thing to note was that I have found missing the laughing track that dominates the TV series quite badly. The actors still seem to have a bit of a pause after saying their lines in order to accommodate for those lines, but they never come in the film; it gives things a very eerie feeling when you see the same joke being repeated in the same way and realize that one of the reasons you're not laughing is the lack of people to laugh with. And I say that as a person who, generally speaking, despises laughing tracks.
Best scene: There are a few funny scenes, but none are as good as the better bits of the series itself. The best one here features Mrs Slocombe trying to have her passport photo taken but failing miserably, but while mildly funny the scene demonstrates the way too silly premises of the film.
Overall: Do yourself a favor and watch the series instead. 1 out of 5 stars, the film is to be avoided at all cost.

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