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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Evan Wil­liams

I’VE been a fan of Sally Hawkins since I first saw her in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, radiating her trade­mark benev­o­lence and good cheer. She’s one of the de­lights of the new Woody Allen film Blue Jas­mine, play­ing op­po­site Cate Blanchett (and never over­shad­owed). Per­haps her strangest role was in Mark Ro­manek’s Never Let Me Go (Satur­day, 10.55pm, Ten; 11.55pm Tas), based on the haunting 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishig­uro. Hawkins plays a teacher, Miss Lucy, in charge of a class at a mys­te­ri­ous English board­ing school. Like the book, the film is both a love story and a science-fic­tion ro­mance or, if you like, a cau­tion­ary parable for our times. The school hides a ter­ri­ble se­cret, which it would be un­fair to re­veal. Let’s just say that among the pupils are Kathy H (Carey Mul­li­gan) and her artist friend Tommy D (An­drew Garfield), and what the H and the D stand for we never know. Nor do Kathy and Tommy — not even when Miss Lucy re­veals the hor­rific truth about their lives.

It’s doubt­ful if any well-loved fig­ure in pop­u­lar fic­tion has fared worse at Hol­ly­wood’s hands than Hugh Loft­ing’s English vil­lage doc­tor who dis­cov­ers he can talk to an­i­mals. The Doc­tor Dolit­tle sto­ries have suf­fered three du­bi­ous Hol­ly­wood treat­ments, one a box-of­fice disas­ter. Rex Har­ri­son’s 1967 mu­si­cal went close to bankrupt­ing Fox, and Ed­die Mur­phy’s 1998 block­buster, though a hit, had none of the charm of the orig­i­nal sto­ries. Di­rected by Steve Carr, Dr Dolit­tle 2 (Sun­day, 2pm, Ten) is strong on dig­i­tal ef­fects and lava­tory hu­mour but flogs its cen­tral joke so mer­ci­lessly that one is tempted to call the RSPCA. This time there’s a re­spectable eco­log­i­cal mes­sage: Mur­phy has to rally the an­i­mal king­dom to pre­vent de­vel­op­ers lev­el­ling a for­est. So see if it you like an­i­mals, zoo­log­i­cal defe­ca­tion jokes and Ed­die Mur­phy.

If you pre­fer your com­edy as smart and black as pos­si­ble, I rec­om­mend Martin Mc­Don­agh’s In Bruges (Fri­day, 10.45pm, Seven), about two hit­men (Colin Far­rell and Bren­dan Glee­son) who are ex­iled by their boss (Ralph Fi­ennes) to the Bel­gian city of Bruges to cool off (or chill out, as we now say) af­ter a bun­gled job in Lon­don. It’s a witty study of three dis­parate char­ac­ters, en­livened by flaw­less dia­logue. Mc­Don­agh, an Ir­ish­man, be­gan his ca­reer as a play­wright. His lat­est film, Seven Psy­chopaths, also has a cou­ple of ru­mi­na­tive hit­men. He’s quoted as say­ing: I sup­pose I walk the line be­tween com­edy and cru­elty be­cause I think one il­lu­mi­nates the other. We’re all cruel, aren’t we? We’re all ex­treme in one way or an­other at times.’’ Yes, well, maybe.

A wel­come re-run for Stan­ley Kubrick’s 1960 film Spar­ta­cus (Satur­day, 2pm, ABC1), about a slave re­bel­lion in an­cient Rome, and rated by this col­umn the great­est of all his­tor­i­cal epics. The screen­play is by Dal­ton Trumbo, black­listed dur­ing the McCarthy era. Kirk Dou­glas is mag­nif­i­cent as the rebel leader.

(M) ★★★★✩ Fri­day, 10.45pm, Seven

(M) ★★★★ Satur­day, 2pm, ABC1

(M) ★★★ ✩ Satur­day, 10.55pm, Ten (11.55pm Tas)

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