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Churchill: The Hollywood Years
cast: Christian Slater, Neve Campbell, Harry Enfield, Mackenzie Crook, and Rik Mayall

writer and director: Peter Richardson

84 minutes (15) 2004
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Pathé DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to rent on video

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
The present day... A distinguished US army officer discovers the shocking truth - Winston Churchill wasn't actually a sturdy mature man with a cigar, but a dashing young American marine who romanced Princess Elizabeth and prevented Hitler from taking over Buckingham Palace. But is the world ready for the truth?

Churchill: The Hollywood Years is a one-joke movie, but it's potentially a very good joke. After all, the Yanks have been appropriating British heroes on celluloid for years - so why not Churchill, that epitome of British pluck? The question is, does the joke work?

Well, yes and no. The film has some exceptionally funny moments - I defy anyone to keep a straight face during Churchill's visit to the East End, a wickedly accurate parody of Hollywood's usual hotchpotch of 'peasant' clichés. Many of the best laughs come from the dissolute Princess Margaret and a miserly George V, going around the Palace turning off the lights to save money, while blind to the larger crisis and the identity of his suspicious German houseguests.

Christian Slater's Churchill is a surprisingly bland figure, really only there as a foil for Neve Campbell's pitch-perfect Elizabeth, whose foray into the real world as a war worker, and subsequent romance, provide the heart of the story. Antony Sher presents Hitler as a ridiculous figure surrounded by bickering idiots, and Miranda Richardson's insecure Eva Braun is delightful. Yet there's awkwardness in the presentation of the Germans, as if the writer couldn't quite bring himself to wring laughs out of depicting mass murderers, and the film slows to a confused meander whenever they're on screen. At 84 minutes, the plot also feels rushed, even cursory. The film is watchable, even enjoyable, but it's very hit-and-miss, and there was a lot more fun to be had from this concept.

The DVD extras are substantial. Along with the usual trailers, TV spots, and behind the scenes documentary, there's a spoof documentary about the uncovering of the 'true story': made up mostly from film footage, but still quite amusing. The commentary, from Richardson and Slater, is uninspired, but a selection of giggly outtakes and several deleted scenes - including Eva Braun's call to a phone-in advice programme - make up for it.

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