By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
There was a time in the 80s when director John Landis was the undisputed king of comedy, directing classics like Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and Coming to America and even branching out of the comedy genre with An American Werewolf in London. As long as John Belushi was alive and Eddie Murphy stayed away from kids movies, the man was unstoppable. Then tragedy struck.
Landis’s latest entry is Burke & Hare, nominally inspired by the true story of an Irish duo who recognized a demand and how to fill it- namely a shortage of testing-quality fresh cadavers in what was then the medical capital of the world-Edinburgh, Scotland. With the cemeteries on lockdown from grave robbing, there was one obvious solution in a city full of migrants nobody would miss… comedic hijinks to follow!
You have to admit that the setup is pretty unique for a comedy, and they definitely got the right actors to play the bumbling murderous duo of Burke & Hare- Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis. Pegg is his usual straight man self, except this time he’s playing off of the inhumanly expressive-faced, Rowan Atkinson-like Serkis instead of Nick Frost. They sell some laughs that the writing probably doesn’t deserve, keeping the movie grounded and amusing throughout.
I also have to raise a glass to the little touches, like the hangman narrator, cameos that include Christopher Lee and Ray Harryhausen, and, of course, the Scottish pimp mafia.
About that writing. As talented as Pegg and Serkis are, it can be difficult to sell lines like “I had confidence in a fart once and I shat all over myself.”
That’s just a taste of the several comedy set pieces that don’t work (Scottish orgasm, anyone?) that are intercut with lazy comedy like dog reactions and groaner jokes with more corn than the Iowa State Fair.
See, I can take the lazy way out, too
Here’s an interesting set of facts: actress Isla Fisher was born in Oman to Scottish parents before moving to and growing up in Australia. Maybe all that time down under watered it down or my untrained ear is to blame, but her Scottish accent sounds to me like it came out of Michael Myer’s School of Ethnic Realism.
So maybe it is a little bit hit or miss. There are enough hits to grab a few cold ones and give it a watch.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time you see a cadaver
Take a Drink: each time a body is cut into
Drink a Shot: every time Pegg is led on or cock-blocked