The pitch is not a hard one to imagine – This Is Spinal Tap meets Four Weddings and a Funeral with just a touch of Pop Idol chucked in for good measure. Nonetheless, it is a strange experience to find a film where the biggest names in it are Martin Freeman, aka Tim from The Office, and Jimmy Carr, the ubiquitous host of innumerable nostalgic compilation TV shows.
But put into the Spinal Tap-style mockumentary comedic tradition the fact that the cast is largely unrecognisable to most British, let alone American, audiences is all part of its charm.
Set around a magazine competition to find the most unusual wedding, the fly-on-the-wall style handheld camerawork combines with apparently entirely improvised dialogue to create a familiar sense of documentary reality. Such a reality would instantly be shattered with too many familiar faces present.
As such, this may be more likely to appeal to American audiences than British, as in the US the only cast member likely to be recognised is Freeman, thanks to his turn in Love, Actually. But for fans of British comedy, his co-stars are more likely to be the big draw, with a host of familiar faces from some of the best comedy shows of the past 10 years, covering the cult likes of Spaced, The Green Wing, Look Around You, Peep Show, Big Train, Brass Eye, Jam and I’m Alan Partridge.
With such a talented comedy cast, the decision to allow the actors to come up with their own dialogue makes a lot more sense than with many other “improvised” film projects. Although director Debbie Isitt gets the credit for the screenplay, she would have been all too aware that her cast’s experience far outweighed her own.
As such, little gems of situational humour spring up from all involved, from the great interplay of Freeman and his fiancée, Spaced’s Jessica Stevenson, as they prepare for their Broadway musical-style event, through Peep Show’s Robert Webb, constantly stripping off as the naturist opting for a nude ceremony, with a host of fine turns from all the supporting players.
As Jimmy Carr’s magazine editor and organiser of the competition explains, “Not everyone wants their special day ruined by a gimmick, but some people do.” If you’ve ever been forced to wear a hideous taffeta bridesmaid’s outfit or had to don an ill-fitting, shiny tuxedo as best man, the trials of the wedding preparations on show will make you forever grateful that your friends managed to avoid the atrocious taste of the three couples competing against each other here.
The only real problem is that, as with most mockumentaries, the “realism” of the style means much of the comedy is rather downbeat, in the vein of The Office’s cringe-inducing humour. Although there are some genuinely funny jokes, the basic premise for the comedy is embarrassment, and this particular style of humour is very much an acquired taste. If, however, it’s a taste you’re already accustomed to, this could well make for a fun night out.