Mike Bassett: England Manager (Cert 15)

by ALEXANDER WALKER, Evening Standard

Talk about scoring an own goal! Maybe it looked like a good idea at the time: a mockumentary about an obese, dimwitted, foul-mouthed, grammar-mangling England football manager and all the cock-ups he and his crass team of boozers, bullies and braindeaders commit on their unlikely way to the World Cup in Brazil.

But the film comes out when England is under the new and brilliant management of a shrewd Swede, the players are behaving themselves on field and off, and even winning.

Steve Barron's out-of-joint ribaldry has cost the National Lottery £1.2 million (out of a £3.6 million budget). What a wonderful use for public money, lauding louts and celebrating disasters. Masochism on the field, muddle off it.

"My dad's been like a father-figure to me," snuffles Ricky Tomlinson, as manager Mike. "My game's turning good players into great players - or at least converting bad players into mediocre ones."

The relentless emphasis on failure turns the film into a study of psychopathology, not satirical pastiche. There's certainly room for a comedy of mismanagement, but not one in which every scene hammers individual stupidity and national inferiority into the mud.

Dedicated fans, of course, will see who's being got at and put famous names to these oafish faces, or identify the provenance of a dressing-room rant composed entirely of the bleeped-out F-word.

But it all feels as far past its sell-by date as guest-star Pele is past his prime.

About the only one to come out of it with professionalism unsullied is Martin Bashir, the TV interviewer: he takes care to play himself. It would have been a safer bet if they'd stuck to cricket.

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