UK Release Date: 10th April 2017
Runtime: 82 minutes
Director: Danny Stack, Tim Clague
Writer: Danny Stack, Tim Clague
Starring: Loretta Walsh, Hattie Gotobed, JJ Brown, James Grogan, Jonah Alexander, Bonnie Wright, Russell Biles, Mark Freestone, Jamie Lee-Hill
Synopsis: A group of kids must band together to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a holiday park mascot when one of them witnesses him being pushed to his death off a cliff.
Turn on the CBeebies channel at any time on a Saturday and you’ll likely stumble on a fun, knockabout comedy show that is equal parts fart jokes and silliness. That spirit isn’t something that often transfers to the big screen, with recent Britflicks for kids like Pudsey the Dog: The Movie and Postman Pat: The Movie falling flat on their faces. With those rather humourless flops in mind, it’s genuinely refreshing to sit back and relax with Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? – a charming tale of mystery and adventure set at a sunny holiday park on the Dorset coast. It has real wit and an easygoing sense of fun that is utterly infectious for the whole family.
Billie (Loretta Walsh) is beginning to think she’s too old for cheesy holiday park entertainment and hanging around with friends Shiv (JJ Brown), The Colonel (Hattie Gotobed) and the much younger Woody (James Grogan). One evening, she witnesses park mascot Nelson Nutmeg appear to fall to his death from a cliff after arguing with a shadowy figure. The next day, Billie and her friends – with her older brother Swindon (Jonah Alexander) along for the ride – vow to investigate Nelson’s disappearance. Their investigations lead them to the strict new boss of the park Diane (Bonnie Wright) and the incredibly sinister Mr Slug (Russell Biles).
Jaded adults might look on Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? as a strictly kiddie-only slice of entertainment. It certainly doesn’t have the emotional sophistication of Pixar’s Inside Out or the psychedelic weirdness of something like The Boss Baby, but it is a shot of joy that will please young audiences with its fun mystery plot and silly slapstick and will work as a dose of nostalgia for adults who remember summer holidays they had as kids. Writing and directing duo Danny Stack and Tim Clague do an excellent job of evoking the weird friendship groups and bizarre activities that populate British seaside holiday resorts.
Chief among the successes of Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? is the easy chemistry of its central child actors. Loretta Walsh makes for a charismatic lead and she forms a rather touching quasi-romantic relationship with JJ Brown as fart-joke-obsessed tough guy Shiv. This is a film that really invests time in building plausible connections between its young cast thanks to some oddly naturalistic performances given the bizarre tone. The most memorable member of the young cast, though, is Jonah Alexander, who provides a string of comedic highlights as the older, but not necessarily wiser, brother of Walsh’s character. Swindon is a delightfully lovable doofus, who steals scenes with his goofy quips and references to the alien invasion he is sure is imminent. It doesn’t appear that Alexander has done much acting before or since, but he shows real comedic potential throughout this film.
The adult cast gives us Harry Potter star Bonnie Wright doing a great stern headmistress shtick that plays neatly into the children’s prejudices, but her character is someone who has skeletons in her closet and there’s an ambiguity to her involvement in the mystery. Russell Biles, meanwhile, is on hissable villain duties as the loathsome Mr Slug. It’s him who provides the panto baddie for kids to boo and he is very much the MVP of the film’s physical comedy sequences, especially in a chase scene that clearly channels the infamous corridor chases from Scooby Doo.
The slapstick silliness of Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? might put off some older audiences and it’s clearly skewed towards younger viewers, but that’s not a problem. Stack and Clague make the most of the stunning Dorset landmarks with some nice visual flourishes and, seemingly almost as an homage to the knotty Dorset-set crime tales of Broadchurch, the plot unravels in a way that might come across as slightly convoluted and a little much for the kids at which it is aimed. For the most part, though, is silly and easy-going with plenty of bright colours, broad comedy and a surprising amount of heart.
Pop or Poop?
In a climate where British family movies are just bizarre and almost entirely based on existing properties, Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? is a work of refreshing originality and pleasing nostalgia. A solid cast of youngsters with great chemistry help to paper over the cracks in a slightly uneven mystery story, but there’s enough running around and jokes about bodily fluids to ensure that this is a great family treat of a movie.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? is available on a number of digital platforms now.