Tuesday, April 12, 2011

DIFF review BURKE AND HARE- She said

Directed by John Landis
Written by Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft
Starring: Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry and Isla Fisher

"The following is based on a true story.  Except for the parts that aren't true."  With an opening like that, you'd expect pure comedy greatness from a movie right?  BURKE AND HARE is a British black comedy loosely based on the famous murders.  You see, our heroes, Burke (Simon Pegg) and Hare (Andy Serkis), need money now.  They're salesmen, but people have discovered their product is crap.  So, they get into the cadaver business.  At this point during the 19th century, medicine was a booming area in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Prospective doctors from far and wide traveled to study under either Doctor Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson), a more progressive doctor who wants to make a map of the human body, or Doctor Monroe (Tim Curry), who has rather medieval practices and probably doesn't believe in any form of anaesthetic.  Now, Doctor Monroe has made a deal where he gets all the bodies that are sentenced to death by hanging.  So, that leaves Knox out in the cold, until Burke and Hare come to his rescue.

Finding dead bodies is a lucrative business.  When the plague isn't around, you just have to wait until someone kicks the bucket.  Burke and Hare try digging up bodies from graves, but then there's the off chance that the body is decomposing already, which wouldn't fetch any money, or the militia could catch you.  So, they resort to the only way they know to get a freshly dead cadaver...killing.  They're careful with who they kill whether it's an old man on the verge of death anyways or a drunk who could easily fall down a flight of stone stairs.  So, business is good.

Then, the rest of the movie happens.  The set up seems dark yet fun, and the first thirty minutes of the movie has some very slapstick-almost-Monty-Pythonish moments, which sets a very playful tone.  However, Burke's love interest, Ginny (Isla Fisher), is introduced, and she steals the whole mojo of the movie.  She's a performer looking for someone to finance her all female production of Macbeth, so she decides to lure Burke into producing the play, and of course, he really falls for her.  Her character comes of less as ambitious and progressive and more whiny and flighty.  She adds nothing to the movie other than to give Burke a gal and to give Hare jokes about how Hare is still a virgin.

Also, the love story takes focus away from the doctors.  We occasionally are brought back to their feud, but there's no weight to their competition.  Tim Curry is completely underused.  He is in the movie for maybe 15 minutes with almost no payoff in the end.  Another plot element that gets thrown in is a mafia-type group that offers, or rather tells Burke and Hare that they need to pay them for protection.  It's just another element that gets muffled in this weird conglomeration of characters.

The idea of the movie unfortunately ended up being better than the actual payoff.  Even though it started so strong, the plot just wilted away and ended up being kind of boring.  Overall lackluster and forgettable.

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