The Hippopotamus (2017)

May 26th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: John Jencks; Cast: Roger Allam, Emily Berrington, Dean Ridge, Fiona shaw, Matthew Modine, Tommy Knight, Lynne Renee, Emma Curtis, Richard Glover, Gerald, John Standing; UK 2017, 89 min.

Based on a novel by Stephen Fry, director John Jencks (The Fold) and writers Blanche McIntyre and Tom Hodgson have come up with a pastiche on the “English Country House Mystery”, which is neither funny nor well-crafted. In fact, it’s pretty much a waste of time.

Just fired from his job as a theatre critic, irritable blunderer (and ex-poet) Ted Wallace (Allam), is asked by his god-daughter Jane (Berrington), who has been miraculously cured from leukaemia, to investigate the source of her cure. For this reason, Allam visits the country estate of the Logans, a family he was once close to Lord and Lady Logan (Matthew Modine, Fiona Shaw) have two sons, Simon (Ridge) and David (Knight), the latter Allam’s Godson. David is supposed to cure humans and animals alike, but Allam finds out the rationale behind the “miracles”: young David is sometimes apt to obtain sexual favours by masquerading as a faith healer – whilst the alcoholic Allam put a bottle full off whisky into the feeding bucket of a horse, which recovered on its own accord. When the light-hearted banter turns into something far more serious, the filmmakers lose the plot completely, when Jane’s mother Rebecca (with whom Allam had an affair) turns up out of the blue.

Complete with caricature appearances by Tim McInnery as the gay ‘Tunte’; Oliver Mills, Lynne Renee and Emma Curtis as the ‘French’ mother/daughter duo of Valerie and Clara Richmonde (sic), The comedy goes from bad to worse. DoP Angus Hudson undermines the project even further by letting his images look as pedestrian and third-hand as the narrative. Not even a persiflage, but just a caricature of itself, this is as tepid as it gets – even John Standing’s butler Podmore is mediocre. AS


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