Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dents

the fugi­tives

Empire (UK) - - REVIEW - he­len o’hara

Char­ac­ters don’t have to be lik­able to make great com­edy. some of the finest comic cre­ations are bas­tards (Mal­colm tucker), weirdos (Pee-wee her­man) or nin­com­poops (In­spec­tor clouseau). But even the worst have to have some re­deem­ing fea­ture, and it’s that spark of grace that’s miss­ing from ricky Ger­vais’ lat­est movie as writer, direc­tor and star. a re­make of 2009 French film

En­voyés Très Spé­ci­aux, it sees two ra­dio jour­nal­ists con­vinc­ing the world that they are re­port­ing from a war zone, when in fact they have lost their tick­ets and are stuck at home, faking the broad­casts and, when that gets too tir­ing, their own kid­nap­ping. Ger­vais is Ian, the hap­less tech re­spon­si­ble for their predica­ment. eric Bana is Frank, the too-cool an­chor­man forced into a shaky al­liance with him — made par­tic­u­larly frag­ile be­cause he slept with his com­rade’s wife shortly be­fore.

But it’s hard to care. Ger­vais may look hang­dog, but here he’s hope­less as the underdog. In­stead he gives us a car­i­ca­ture, a mass of geeky, half-hearted tropes about video games and comics, things that Ger­vais him­self ap­pears to de­spise. Bana’s char­ac­ter never seems ei­ther ap­palling enough to be shock­ing or nice enough to be worth root­ing for. Worst, how­ever, is Vera Farmiga as Ian’s faith­less wife, a one-di­men­sional harpy with­out a re­deem­ing fea­ture.

try­ing des­per­ately to bal­ance things out is Kelly Mac­don­ald’s saintly claire, who has a rather un­likely crush on Ian and no other char­ac­ter traits at all, and amer­ica Fer­rera and raúl castillo as the im­pos­si­bly nice-but-dim cou­ple who of­fer the two fugi­tives shel­ter. none of them feel like hu­man be­ings, which is a prob­lem when the film strives — as it spo­rad­i­cally does — to make a se­ri­ous point about media ma­nip­u­la­tion. But it doesn’t seem to know what point that is, end­ing up with Ger­vais run­ning about with a gun.

sub­plots and char­ac­ter mo­ti­va­tions are raised and dropped ap­par­ently at ran­dom, and in the mod­ern in­ter­net age the premise rings even less cred­i­ble than the sim­i­larly themed Wag The Dog. It should be fun­nier, and more thought­ful — but in­stead it feels like Ger­vais phoned it in from across the road.

Ricky Ger­vais and Eric Bana wage war on their liv­ers.

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