Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) once had it all: the perfect girlfriend, the perfect car, the perfect hair, probably a pretty perfect paycheck, and a good deal of fame. 25 years later, he’s living in a flat in Walthamstow, single, fat, broke, and (worst of all) wearing a toupee.
What changed? Thorncroft was the star of the hit 1980s TV show Mindhorn (a ridiculously farcical show in the vain of The Six Million Dollar Man). This one was set on the Isle of Man, and when Thorncroft left Mindhorn for bigger and better things, good fortune did not follow. Now, Thorncroft is back on the island, asked by the police to help catch a killer who appears to believe the world of Mindhorn is real. The story juggles the crime-centred plot with Thorncroft’s troubles and he is forced to face his past.
“the film becomes a portrait of a broken man”
Theatre director Sean Foley makes his screen debut with an excellent script (penned by Barratt and Simon Farnaby) which maintains a laugh-a-minute joke rate. Thorncroft is one of those comedically tragic characters who constantly fails to realise their own failures. It is fitting, then, that the films also stars Steve Coogan, whose own creation Alan Partridge bares a similarity to the pathetically overly-confident but underachieving Thorncraft. In minor roles appear thespians Kenneth Branagh and Simon Callow (as themselves), whose additions serve only to show us how proper actors don’t treat Thorncroft seriously.
In many ways the film becomes a portrait of a broken man. For all of its bombastic humour and alarming use of irony, there is a maintained sense of pathos that makes you root for a character you most certainly would not want to be stuck in a room with for even 5 minutes.
At the end of it, the film is constrained by its own runtime, and as a result did not explore the full potential of its setup. Speaking for myself at least, I would have wanted to see more.