Although it’s based on the six-part TV sitcom by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick, Whoops Apocalypse the film, has surprisingly little in common with its source material.
The original series aired in 1982, and dealt with the weeks leading up to the titular apocalypse. The film is similar but takes its cue from the Falklands War, with a kidnapping of a Princess Diana inspired royal, a crazed assassin, and a cunning Soviet plot, thrown in for good measure.
While the TV series was utterly merciless in its parodying of then US president Ronald Regan (superbly portrayed as an ageing ham by Barry Morse), here, the film opts for a bemused President Loretta Swit, attempting to cope with the actions of the incompetent Brits.
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of humour to be gleaned from laughing at the British establishment. However, the attempt to appeal to US-audiences, with a less critical take on their President, does ultimately water down a product that was intended to reflect the utter insanity of much of the Thatcher-Reagan era.
John Cleese, who appeared in the TV series, doesn’t make the transition to film, which seems like an odd decision when you consider what a big name he was, and still is. Thankfully Peter Cook, Alexei Sayle, Herbert Lom, and Rik Mayall are there to pick up the slack. Cook provides the film with some of its funniest and downright surreal moments. While Mayall is at his wild, anarchic best–the film only serves to highlight what a talent we have lost.
What those who didn’t live through the ‘80s might find disturbing about Whoops Apocalypse is that, thrown in-between the seemingly random plot elements, and tirade of one-liners, is a truly dark seam of humour. The ‘80s were, for many very desperate days, and there’s a sadness to much of the humour.
You don’t have to be a Gen X-er to appreciate the comedy, however. As the old saying goes, plus c’est la meme chose, plus ça change. Peter Cook’s Conservative MP, who spends the film handing out union flags to protect supporters from nuclear bombs, and devising plans to crucify disloyal party members, could so easily be a 2020s creation.
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