Today: July 17, 2024

Bula Quo

Once upon a time, the summer movie season was all about fun films to make one smile in the intermittent British sunshine. Then it all changed, got bigger, flashier and something was missing- fun.

It may have taken over a quarter century, but Status Quo are here to bring that smile back to everyone’s faces.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of them? They’re old, past it and boring? Yes, there will be many naysayers, and there will be many who care about the bigger budget blockbusters they’ve waited months for, eating up hype and spoilers, leaving the cinemas ever so slightly disappointed, disregarding smaller films that may satisfy the parts that slick, polished CGI extravaganzas lacking heart miss out on. But Bulo Quo is a spectacle that stays with you in more ways than one.

British rock institution Status Quo are finishing their 50 Year Celebration tour. They come off stage to thunderous applause and slip away for a quiet drink. Suspecting a bigger party is going on in the back bar, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt (both making their feature debuts) slip through security and gatecrash the event, only to find themselves witnessing a game of Russian Roulette run by a local gambling ring.

Parfitt and Rossi grab evidence of the murder with a mobile phone and leg it, sharpish, only for the gang’s head honcho Wilson (Jon Lovitz – Happiness, High School High), catching sight of them and ordering his cohorts to bring back their heads.

With the help of their no-nonsense manager Simon (Craig Fairbrass – Cliffhanger, Dead Cert), and eager, feisty intern Caroline (Laura Aikman – The Keith Lemon Movie), who try to keep the press in the dark while protecting the Quo, our heroes find themselves running, jumping, diving and anything else as fast as their sixty-something legs will take them, hoping to evade their nemeses and escape their island paradise, all the while serenading the locals and keeping everyone’s toes tapping.

So that’s the plot. Pretty much all of it. Yet its execution is utterly jaw dropping and constantly entertaining. The locations are stunning and the crew have made the most of the opportunities the island has to offer regarding non-stop chase sequences. Not high speed chases though- canoes, golf carts and even one of those little trains that go around resorts at 10 miles an hour, are all on display, as well as jumping out of planes, scuba diving and pretty much anything they can find, and they’re all hilarious.

Director Stuart St. Paul (Freight) first worked with Rick and Francis as stunt coordinator when they cameod on Coronation St. a few years ago, and it’s obvious that all the crew and the cast have become friends and genuinely had fun with the budget, but it may have been wiser if St. Paul was a little more mercenary when it came to ensuring the script and cast were perfectly suited. The flaw: his writing partner Jean Herd. Not only are many of the lines uninspired and jokes tired and creaking, she has also cast herself as the most unconvincing TV news anchorwoman ever to grace the big screen. True, her character Reiko Best (no, really) may be designed to be an annoyance, but her dull delivery, lack of charisma and simply terrible acting bring the audience down during her frequent, but thankfully brief, appearances. This is the only problem with the film that can’t be excused.

But all the others can because, despite it all, Rick and Francis are the most entertaining and natural on-screen double act since Morecambe & Wise in The Riviera Touch. Indeed, as much as the producers have intended to make a British version of the Blues Brothers melded with James Bond-esque thrills and spills, this truly is the modern equivalent to Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday. The violence and threat is merely suggested, the many fight sequences being more of a comic quality involving pots & pans, doors in faces and flip flops, there is no sex and only the most minimal of swearing, a rare combination these days.

There are also some mind-boggling inclusions pace-wise. On a couple of occasions, during the ensuing chases, we cut to pop videos featuring Rick with a completely different hairstyle. Almost every great punch line is followed by one which will induce groans, but all of this is typical of a band who count Jim Davdison as one of their biggest supporters. Thankfully he does not appear in this film.

Aside from Marsh however, the cast are genuinely, surprisingly, wonderful. Craig Fairbrass hasn’t been this much fun since he went meta and asked Sylvester Stallone if he liked soccer in Cliffhanger. Laura Aikmen is perky, fun and there as a cohort, not a forced love interest, a point that is well addressed during the final scenes.

The songs, of course, are unfashionable, carefree and full of earworm potential, the soundtrack culled from Status Quo’s immense back catalogue as well as nine new songs and native versions of a few of their better known classics.

Because of so many qualities aforementioned, and despite the obvious mistakes (look out for a very brief appearance of the most unconvincing double for Parfitt in a blond wig) this is not a case of “so bad it’s good”. It really is as entertaining as they all planned for it to be, just not necessarily as they intended.

In a few years time, this should end up being screened on ITV on Christmas Day, a fun and humble film for all the family.

It may have been overlooked by many as potential entertainment in a crowded multiplex, but if one likes to rock, laughs at dad’s jokes, doesn’t want to think too much and would like to leave a cinema smiling, just like the old days, look no further.

Bula Quo may be 25 years too late, but in this climate its timing couldn’t be better.

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