As The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt makes an hilarious return in Mindhorn, Getintothis’ Del Pike gets a sneak preview and FACT hosts a Q&A with Barratt and co-creator Simon Farnaby.
The film tells the tragi-comic tale of Richard Thorncroft (The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt), a TV actor not a million miles away from post-Lovejoy Ian McShane. Once the star of TVs Mindhorn, an Isle of Man set cop show from the late 80s, (a cross between Bergerac and The Saint), who is now destined for a life spent advertising orthopaedic socks and male corsets. So was it worth ten years of toil? We can safely confirm that it is.
Unlike 2009’s Bunny and the Bull, that also starred Mindhorn actor and co-creator Simon Farnaby alongside the Mighty Boosh cast, which was so akin to The said Boosh that it felt almost like a spin off, enough time has passed for Mindhorn to stand alone. Quite a feat when considering the key actors are mainly famous for their work in TV comedy.
The film’s strengths lie in the constant daftness that never truly threatens to ruin the plot and keeps the chuckle muscles in gear throughout. Barratt’s character, whether in the guise of Mindhorn or Thorncroft is instantly likeable, less deadpan than Howard Moon, but equally as dry.
There are many similarities to the Bouncing Back era Alan Partridge, made all the more awkward by the presence of Steve Coogan himself in predictably pompous, scene stealing form as an actor who gained a spin off from Mindhorn when Thorncroft faded into obscurity. The film is pretty similar to Alpha Papa, the Partridge movie too. These are not necessarily bad things.
Its been over twenty years since Mindhorn wrapped but Thorncroft is brought out of retirement to re-enact his role in a ploy to catch a Mindhorn obsessed murder suspect (Russell Tovey). The plan leads to Thorncroft returning to the Isle of Man and opening multiple cans of worms on his arrival. The now balding and rotund actor has become one of those tragic (Brent / Fawlty /Partridge) characters that we do so well in Britain and there is certainly scope for a sequel here.
Much like Ben Wheatley who brought his Free Fire to FACT recently, the influences of Farnaby and Barratt are there for all to see. The Isle of Man becomes a parallel to The Wicker Man’s Summerisle, and there’s even a nod to Edward Woodward’s fool costume towards the end. This similarity is raised in the Q and A. “If Mindhorn had gone to Summerisle” says Barratt “ He would have kicked the Pagan’s arses and gone home… and been alright”.
Other influences cited are not surprising, with Barratt’s love of The Six Million Dollar Man (Mindhorn has an eye that can see the truth), and Farnaby’s guilty pleasure of Bergerac. The pair explain how they wanted to get Bergerac’s John Nettles to appear in the film but it never came to be. They envisaged him at Steve Coogan’s mansion wearing a bathrobe alongside a similarly attired Ian McShane.
They did bag Simon Callow and Kenneth Branagh though who joyfully send themselves up in cameos in the film. “We wrote a part called Kenneth Branagh early on and never dreamt he would appear himself” tells Farnaby, who gladly reveals that the director was friends with Branagh so he agreed to get on board.
— Mari Jones (@squareeyedgeek) April 27, 2017
Simon Farnaby’s performance in the film as Thorncroft’s sleazy stuntman Clive, possessing a ridiculous Dutch accent and worryingly short cut off jeans is a joy and light years away from his recent turn in Rogue One. Its impossible not to look at his face and not start humming Stupid Deaths from Horrible Histories. Not a terrible legacy.
One audience member is intrigued that Ridley Scott was amongst the film’s producers but Barratt and Farnaby humbly admit that his money was behind the film but they never actually met him. Farnaby tries to imitate Scott by taking on a Geordie accent and pretending to bang on the writers’ doors “Put an alien in, put an alien in, it’ll make good box office!”
— Gary Lunt (@GaryTheLunt) April 27, 2017
It’s a film that attracted Coogan early on as a backer too as Barratt reveals how the star was a factor in the success of The Mighty Boosh, pushing for a TV show after seeing it live at the Edinburgh Festival “He was the same with this and then ended up being in it”. Farnaby adds “He’s not as bad as people make him out to be you know”.
Mindhorn is a film for any of us who over the years have found a lot to love in Boosh, Garth Marenghi, The IT Crowd, Nathan Barley and Horrible Histories (Admit it, we all watch it). It’s great to see Julian Barratt back on screen in a lead role, he’s one of our funniest actors by far and nowhere near appreciated enough. The film is released on May 5 and is well worth keeping a superpowered eye out for.