Today: June 20, 2024

12 In A Box

By Louis Trythall

Calling 12 In A Box a comedy starring Miranda Hart would be misleading on two counts. Firstly, Hart takes over thirty minutes to even make an appearance – and when she does, has less than ten minutes screen time over the course of the entire film. And secondly, 12 In A Box is painfully unfunny. Left on ice since 2007, 12 In A Box has been unthawed and given a shot of Re-Animator fluid to the arm, following Hart’s recent rise to stardom. But make no mistake: John McKenzie‘s film is barely breathing.

Beginning as a multi-generational school reunion of sorts, 12 In A Box opens with twelve former pupils of St. Michael’s school arriving at Alan Hayward’s (Robert Cargill) mansion. Yet, despite the invites specifying a two hour lunch, Hayward has a surprise in store for his guests. Speaking to the group via video, Hayward explains that he is dying, and has no family or beneficiaries. “Frankly”, Hayward goes on, “I could be dead by the time you watch this”.

Hayward’s butler (Geoffrey Wildey) appears at this point with twelve envelopes. Each envelope, contains a post-dated cheque for £1 million. The snag? The cheques are immediately placed in a locked safe with a timer. To collect their fortune, no one is permitted to leave the estate until the timer reaches zero. Mobile phones are off limits. And conversely, anyone from the outside who sets foot on the estate, cannot leave without jeopardising the money.

Cue much laughter. Or rather, many tumbleweeds. Even looking beyond its decidedly silly premise, 12 In A Box fairly immediately triggers its own self-destruct sequence. McKenzie’s film starts poorly and rapidly finds itself in a tailspin. The film’s paper-thin conceit weighed down by twelve characters who range from the unremarkable to the infuriating – all of whom, are as banal as they are malnourished in personality.

As the timer continues to tick down from its ninety six hour start point, the obstacles blocking the £1 million chequered flag come thick and fast. Police officers (Ed Bennett and David Burrows-Sutcliffe), burglars, weddings, even deaths. McKenzie stretches all believability, and throws everything but the kitchen sink. You only wish it was to some comedic effect.

Hart somewhat inevitably enters the ‘madhouse’ as one of these very obstacles. The fuming, dominant fiancé of  “little” Barry (Kenneth Collard). Though after a smattering of PMS and little-and-large jokes, she’s soon gagged and locked away upstairs. It matters little. Beyond saving, 12 In A Box‘s problems – even  by this stage – too great for any a messianic figure. Let alone a mere mortal like Hart.

By the time it reaches its wholly unsatisfying conclusion, 12 In A Box has long outstayed its welcome. Dull, stale and long past its sell by date, McKenzie’s failure to inspire even a solitary uncomfortable laugh, is, in a purely tragic sense, more worthy of a smile than any moment  in the film’s 96-minute runtime.  If surviving in the company of people of this ilk is what is needed to ‘earn’ a £1 million cheque, 12 In A Box will have you reaching for your lottery ticket.

Rating: 1/5

Cast: Miranda Hart, Ed Bennett, David Burrows-Sutcliffe, Robert Cargill

Director: John McKenzie

Plot: Twelve former pupils of St. Michael’s school arrive at a secluded country mansion for a reunion lunch. But when a potential £1 million cheque is at stake, no one seems in any great rush to leave.

Running Time: 96 minutes

BBFC Certificate: 12

Country of Origin: UK

Release Date (DVD): 1 April, 2013

Genre: Comedy

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