Criminal Kinnema #2 – Kevin and Perry Go Large (2000)

August 22, 2010 by Simon Kinnear in Retro with 0 Comments

This week’s entry in the worst-films-I’ve-reviewed hall of shame arrives just in time to remind us why British holidaymakers have such a terrible reputation…

Kevin and Perry Go Large
(Ed Bye, GB, 2000)

Much like Supersizing a McDonald’s, Go Large isn’t good for you. The same foul ingredients, the same bad taste: there’s just more of it.

There’s probably a good theory waiting to be expostulated about why American TV comedy spin-offs are capable of wit, satire and even – in the case of Wayne’s World – epoch-defining legend, whilst their British equivalents remain hidebound by stale desperation.  I suspect this theory would tick all the usual boxes – talent, ambition, money – before ultimately settling for its conclusion on the same difference in artistic temperament that has blighted much Britcom offerings of the past decade. Whereas Stateside writers and performers aim to create identifiable characters, British instincts (excepting notable Yankophiles like Simon Pegg and Ricky Gervais) remain resolutely in the realm of the caricature.

So it goes with Kevin and Perry, a fortysomething misanthrope’s jaundiced view of teenage angst. Harry Enfield’s creations, broad in outline and blunt in execution, were designed for the quick fix of the 90-second sketch. The cold scrutiny of a feature – even one as short as this – requires a rethink, but as the title suggests, Enfield has simply multiplied every tic and mannerism to gargantuan excess.

The resulting behemoth resembles a live-action version of Viz without the social satire and all-round air of counter-cultural mischief. True, a few neat touches emerge unscathed, such as the liberating effect of Ibiza on Kevin’s uptight parents, or the still-smart undermining of the friends’ adolescent masculinity by having Perry played by Kathy Burke. But such moments are drowned under the welter of bodily fluid gags.

It’s beyond me how anyone can dare criticise the U.S. teen movie for its dependence on gross-out humour, when this movie literally ‘goes large’ with sick, pus, shit and erections, the latter in every single bloody scene. Enfield’s sour heart no doubt believes that such an emphasis reflects the teenager’s mindset, but compare it to its thematic twin, American Pie and the extent of the insult becomes clear. Pie astutely tied the toilet humour to the narrative structure, so that every gag was timed to heighten the social embarrassment of its virginal protagonists. This arrives at its would-be punchlines so arbitrarily that it’s difficult to imagine the mindset behind the creation of the ‘floater’ scene. I mean, why?

Sadly, the same condescension even infects the film’s surprisingly even-handed depiction of dance culture. Theoretically, there’s a sympathetic eye towards the teenagers’ travails with self-obsessed superstar DJs and malicious club doormen, a parable of innocence against cynicism (and a surprisingly prescient vision of the disenchantment with the late-90s dance scene that would soon become ubiquitous). But it’s hampered both by the sheer extent of the spite directed towards Eyeball Paul (horribly played by Rhys Ifans), and by the unanchored fantasy of the ending, more implausible than any of Kevin’s sub-Billy Liar reveries.

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