01/07/2013

Blackadder: Back and Forth (1999)

Film: Blackadder: Back and Forth
Release: 1999, theatrical
Starring: Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnery, Miranda Richardson, Rik Mayall
Directed by: Paul Weiland
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Lord Edmund Blackadder is hosting a new years party at the eve of the new millennium. To cheat his guests out of cash he has had his faithful servant Baldrick build a fake time machine. Unfortunately - it actually works. Blackadder and Baldrick is now lost in time and has to find a way back to their own period.

Hans' thoughts:

Blackadder is one of those big British comedies. When a foreigner like me thinks of British comedy the first things that come to mind is Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, 'Allo 'Allo! and Blackadder. It's timeless in it's wit, set in various historical periods, and was pretty much the breakout series for a lot of big names. The three biggest being Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. 

The "gimmick" of the Blackadder series is that each season of the tv-show is set in a new historical period, each with it's own incarnation of the title character and his faithful servant Baldrick. Other returning cast members are historical figures with distinctly recognizable features - mostly because they're played by returning actors. The most obvious example is that of Hugh Laurie playing Prince Regent George of Wales in the 3rd season, and then returning as Blackadders second-in-command in Blackadder Goes Forth, the 4th and final season. Needless to say, this series is very beloved by it's fans. 

That's all well and good you may think, but what about the movie? Well, I liked it.

Okay let me rephrase that for a second, I liked it but it is a very far cry from the wit of the original series and as such it is better to be seen as it's own thing. Okay let me backtrack a second, the original series run of Blackadder ended with it's 4th season in 1989, this movie was made in 1999. That's 10 years later. These guys haven't done these characters for such a long time that's it's understandable that there would be few hiccups.

One of those is kind of forgetting that the strength of the series was always it's dialogue, with the visual gags being more or less hit and miss (more miss than hit, really). Blackadder the series is one of the most quotable sitcoms in the world and this movie falls just short of truly recapturing that amount of snark. The series also never really strayed all that far from what could feasibly happen in the real world. Of course it took it's liberties for the sake of comedy but never to the extent of the characters actually inventing time-travel. Then again, to it's credit the time-travel aspect of the movie is set just a bit in the background and serves as a narrative tool to pay homage to the different time-periods from the series.

What I'd also really like to highlight is the music. This movie brings what may possibly be the best version of the classic Blackadder theme. You really feel that this time there's a huge budget behind it. It's not that the themes in the former series were bad - no I feel Blackadder is one of my favorite theme songs - but this one really hammers it up to movie budget level. The intro-sequence is properly epic, set to various historical pictures with Rowan Atkinson put in making rude gestures to a almost Lord of The Rings-esque version of the theme. The ending theme follows the tradition, but whereas the second season went a little overboard with the (at the time) modern pop influence, this one let's the funny come exclusively from the songs lyrics.

This movie servers as a tribute and send off to one of the greatest and funniest sitcoms of BBC. It has a return of a huge amount of the original actors and it actually feels like a sort of family reunion - The group put together again for one last blow-out. If you've seen all the Blackadder series and feel that you need a proper ending for the clans story - this serves the purpose. However, people who hasn't followed the original series at all should probably watch that before turning to this movie. It's more of a thank you note to the loyal fans than an introduction to the series.

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