Reviews

Burke and Hare

1

You won’t die laughing…

Burke and Hare review

A man falling in a hole. Jessica Hynes face down in a bowl of porridge. Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis being showered with shit.

Believe it or not, these are the comedic highlights in John Landis’s woeful return to the big screen after a decade-long hiatus, an inept black farce about two 19th century bodysnatchers that couldn’t be more lifeless if it was one of their victims.

Already the subject of numerous films (from 1945’s The Body Snatcher to 1985’s The Doctor And The Devils), Burke and Hare were an Irish pair of scumbags who killed people in order to sell their corpses to Edinburgh’s medical fraternity.

Yet the way Landis tells it, the two Williams were just opportunistic scoundrels who fell into their lucrative line of work by accident.

We’re meant to chortle heartily, then, when they smother Christopher Lee in his bed, or cause a horse-drawn carriage carrying Michael Winner to plunge off a cliff.

It’s also supposed to be endearing that Pegg’s Burke is only doing it to raise money for his actress girlfriend’s all-female Macbeth, a pitiful excuse for Isla Fisher’s precocious wannabe to mangle the Bard in a beard and kilt.

Sadly, Landis gets it wrong at every conceivable level. The gags aren’t funny. The gore’s too graphic. The performances are so broad and cartoony it’s like we’re watching Carry On Graverobbing. Scenes drag on interminably, then peter out without a punchline.

The timing. Is completely. Off.

Okay, so the Auld Reekie of the 1820s is convincingly recreated in a way that juxtaposes the ostentatious wealth of its hoi polloi (represented by Tom Wilkinson and Tim Curry’s rival surgeons) with the grimy poverty of its rank and file.

Yet a turd is a turd no matter how much you polish it, embellish it or fill it with slumming British comedians.

Oh, and can someone explain to us why the film features Greyfriars Bobby when the mutt wasn’t born until 1855?

Verdict:

The John Landis who brought us American Werewolf and ‘Thriller’ is but a memory in a rotten romp that’s downright criminal.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • johnian

      Oct 29th 2010, 13:16

      Agreed - it's pretty dire. A pretty good ensemble who presumably signed up after reading the cast list rather than the script. From the director of The Stupids, rather than The Blues Brothers.

      Alert a moderator

    • johnneyred

      Oct 29th 2010, 14:01

      I knew this would be c**p when it sneaked up with so little advance publicity, plus the dire poster and trailer. Chin up Peggy, maybe Paul will be good, although judging by it's diabolical teaser trailer i'm not holding my breath. RIP John Landis (retire in pieces)

      Alert a moderator

    • tummidge

      Oct 29th 2010, 14:31

      Doesn't sound as though anyone will question why Tennant left then? Pegg can at least say he's worked with Landis now, which is why I think he's in this movie. I think people have been a bit harsh on the Paul trailer though - it's only a teaser. I'm always left wondering though when a film is reviewed so close to the release that it has to be dire, but the studio doesn't want word to get around until they've had a good first weekend.

      Alert a moderator

    • girlaloud05

      Oct 29th 2010, 15:11

      5

      I disagree with this review. I watch it the second I could, and I found it very Good. The trailer doesn’t do it justice! And although its based off a true story, a lot of it is not real. It would have to have been an 18 if it was exact. as for the gore- there was one bit! As for greyfriars bobby, most of the events did happen, just at different time! It was just referencing Scottish history! That is a lot of references like that in the film..

      Alert a moderator

    • sdougla1

      Oct 29th 2010, 17:20

      Its not possible for gore to be "too graphic". Such a shame I was looking forward to this film as the cast are all awesome, think I'll have to skip it.

      Alert a moderator

    • sdougla1

      Oct 29th 2010, 17:20

      Its not possible for gore to be "too graphic". Such a shame I was looking forward to this film as the cast are all awesome, think I'll have to skip it.

      Alert a moderator

    • sanctusmortis

      Oct 29th 2010, 18:21

      I'm quite amused by a reader review that basically says "everything you said is true, and on purpose! 5 stars!" If you're going to use real events, use them. If you're going to reference history, get the dates right. If you don't do the above, expect to be panned.

      Alert a moderator

    • Gwasgray

      Oct 29th 2010, 20:50

      It looks a bit c**p in those TV adverts, and I have a feeling this review is right, so I think I'll skip this. "The John Landis who brought us American Werewolf and ‘Thriller’ is but a memory in a rotten romp" As excellent as his early work is, perhaps it should also be remembered that John Landis hasn't made a good film in a long time, his 90s work was rubbish (The Stupids, Beverly Hills Cop III, Oscar, Blues Brothers 2000)

      Alert a moderator

    • MrJellyfish

      Oct 30th 2010, 0:55

      5

      This review is totally and utterly wrong, the film was hilarious and I would say it's only flaw is that the gore wasn't graphic enough, it didn't delve deep enough into the horror potential but it was still really funny. Clearly the reviewer missed the point; the romance isn't supposed to be endearing, the characters are horrible and that's where the comedy comes from. The film doesn't ask you to believe in the heroes or the love story, it's a mockery of those subjects and it works perfectly well. It's a good natured, light hearted comedy that's a lot more charming than all the sarcastic and cynical American comedies that are dominating cinema at the moment.

      Alert a moderator

    • umafan1

      Oct 30th 2010, 9:34

      5

      I agree with MrJellyfish. I have no idea what you're on about totalfilm. You obviously don't get black comedy. I thought the film was hilarious from start to finish. Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg were brilliant. The supporting cast was also great. I liked the story very much. The characters were all great and made it all come together. It's one of the funniest comedies i've seen in a long time. I couldn't stop laughing. It was a lot better than that mainstream rubbish we've had [which is supposed to be funny apparently] like Dinner for schmucks, The other guys [which you gave 4 stars somehow], Grown ups and movies that were just rubbish in general in the mainsteam like Salt, The last airbender, Cop out, Killers and Resident evil afterlife to name a few.

      Alert a moderator

    • kimsala

      Oct 30th 2010, 11:17

      3

      I disagree about the one star Total Film has given this film. Grant you, it's not a film that will go down in history as the greatest black comedy of our time, but it's entertaining, endearing and a decent comedy. I would have liked to see Tennant rather than Serkis (though I am a fan of Serkis!) but I enjoyed myself for what it was. A silly, comedic movie.

      Alert a moderator

    • BruceShark

      Oct 30th 2010, 15:01

      3

      Firstly the 3 stars is for the film. Which is entertaining enough. It ain't gonna win anything but it certainly isn't the one star you review you give it. This, *, one star however is for you total film. Having been a avid reader of your magazine now for some considerable time, i regret to inform you that sadly you are well past putting out to pasture. Your reviews of late have been so wrong it's starting to get boring. I work as a projectionist and after I've finished reading your magazine give it to the rest of the staff to read. I can hardly find one person at work that agrees with your awful reviewers. Who ever these people you hire to review these films you need to give them the chop and bring in people who actually understand what movies are. For ages Empire ruled the roost of Movie Magazines. They fell for the same reason and I believe Total Film took its place. Sadly I fear you are going the same way as that magazine and instead of writing honest reviews, you're pandering towards the big studios and losing sight of what the actually people who pay to watch these movies think. I will make sure now in the future to see the film before I even consider reading what your 'Office Boy' thought of it.

      Alert a moderator

    • CristosDiablos

      Oct 30th 2010, 16:52

      3

      Not the best film I've seen this year but certainly not the worst by a long way. I found it entertaining enough and as such I'm glad I ignored your reviewer and made my own mind up about the film. The only shame is that there will be people who might enjoy the film that don't see it because of your review. I agree with BruceShark that your reviews just aren't woth taking into consideration anymore, which is why I've cancelled my subscription.

      Alert a moderator

    • jayem

      Oct 31st 2010, 0:09

      4

      It seems that a number of people "reviewing" this film have only got as far as watching the trailer ? I just watched the film in a cinema, where the audience was laughing regularly. For myself, I found the film both fun and well judged (it doesn't ignore the "moral issues" but still provides diverting entertainment). Is there an 'intellectual snobbery' thing going on here ? After all, it's just an Ealing Comedy, not an attempt to offer a profound insight into historical events. Felt like a good evening out to me ...

      Alert a moderator

    • malorla

      Nov 1st 2010, 12:34

      3

      OhMyGod Neil Smith! Did someone pee in your popcorn?!?!?! ONE star? The opening line of the film "this story is based in truth, except for the parts that aren't", or whatever it was, gave the audience an idea of what to expect. The film never once tries to sell itself as an historically accurate recreation/drama it's a black comedy!! And a funny one, at that. I thought Pegg and Serkis were great, as was Jessica Hynes. The gags ARE funny. The timing, for the most part is good. I saw this in an Irish cinema last-night and the audience was laughing along regularly. I'm glad I saw it, I enjoyed it.

      Alert a moderator

    • malorla

      Nov 1st 2010, 12:35

      And why can't you thumbs-up/down people's comments on here, or start a conversation?!?!?

      Alert a moderator

    • malorla

      Nov 1st 2010, 12:36

      AND we should be able to rate the review....

      Alert a moderator

    • whiskey

      Nov 4th 2010, 0:33

      4

      I thought Burke and Hare was brilliant, some excellent comedy moments and just the right amount of gory bits. Pegg and Serkis were on fine form as always and the supporting cast were also great! I had a smile on my face pretty much all the way through the film :-)

      Alert a moderator

    • Gliptrun

      Dec 19th 2010, 10:03

      5

      Look up the term hoi polloi, Neil.

      Alert a moderator

    • jonnykerr13

      Jun 18th 2011, 11:55

      3

      I agree that with this director and these actors the film could have been better. But it certainly wasn't a one star! Perhaps John Landis' filmography has made you extremely expectant? Burke and Hare is a horrible tale made funny, which is a very difficult task. Granted there are lapses and it can be a bit of a damp squib at times. The performances and direction are good. Script a bit suspect. Although this isn't a Landis masterclass of laughs, it's certainly no lifeless corpse...

      Alert a moderator