UK Release Date: TBC
Runtime: 99 minutes
Director: Jason Wingard
Writer: Jason Wingard, David Isaac
Starring: Antonio Aakeel, Jack Carroll, Asim Chaudhry, Sarah Hoare, Nitin Ganatra, Johnny Vegas, Hayley Tamaddon, Vicki Pepperdine, Kevin Eldon, Darshan Jariwala, Natalie Davies, Tom Binns
Synopsis: A young man and his disabled half-brother go on a journey to find the former’s biological father, following the death of their grandmother.
The first thing you notice about new British comedy Eaten By Lions is the extraordinary calibre of its cast. It seems as if every role is filled by a member of the comedic royal family, from Johnny Vegas and Kevin Eldon to Getting On co-creator Vicki Pepperdine and Asim Chaudhry, who is currently tearing it up on the sixth series of Dave’s brilliantly anarchic game show Taskmaster. Aside from its eclectic roster of comedy talent, the film is an enjoyable romp, albeit one that feels very rough around the edges and darts off in some very strange directions when it comes to its third act.
Things start simply enough, with half-siblings Omar (Antonio Aakeel) and Pete (Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Jack Carroll), who have been brought up by their grandmother. When she dies, the teenagers are taken in by an aunt and uncle (Pepperdine and Eldon), but they show little interest in Omar. He decides to travel to Blackpool in an attempt to track down his real father and the brothers find themselves living in a crappy guest house owned by Ray (Vegas, in a preposterous wig). Omar and Pete soon meet Irfan (Chaudhry), who is an irresponsible manchild, ill prepared for fatherhood.
There’s a uniquely British feel to Eaten By Lions from its very first moments. The title is gleefully ripped from a Sunday Sport cutting that pops up on screen and there’s an end of the pier sensibility to everything that happens afterwards – literally, in fact given the Blackpool setting. That British feel carries through to the comedy, which flirts with bad taste, but is silly enough to hover on the right side of that line. The innate likeability of Aakeel and especially Carroll, who won the nation’s hearts with his self-deprecating stand-up on Britain’s Got Talent, goes a long way towards maintaining that balance.
The entire film is peppered with memorable cameo appearances, whether it’s Vegas’s slightly creepy hotel boss (“there’s no hassles at the Castles”), Eldon’s put-upon husband or character comedian Tom Binns as a wildly flamboyant tarot card reader who doesn’t seem to take the cards as seriously as he probably should. The second half of the movie focuses more on Chaudhry’s character and his family, who are uniformly very entertaining – watch out for beloved EastEnders actor Nitin Ganatra in a small, but hilarious role. There are, however, some baffling character decisions that detract from the potential emotion of the story.
And that’s where Eaten By Lions unravels somewhat. It’s never as emotionally potent as its subject matter ought to be, though Aakeel and Chaudhry deserve ample credit for playing real shades of warmth and charm amidst their comedic work. The final act of the film turns into a bizarre escalation of comedic setups that completely loses sight of the story’s simplicity and, as a result, leads to the whole thing falling off the rails. That never completely overwhelms the charm, though, of a film that is every bit as British as a stick of rock, albeit one that doesn’t quite have ‘HILARIOUS’ written through it.
Pop or Poop?
When writer-director Jason Wingard allows his movie to be simply funny, Eaten By Lions is a delight to watch and a pleasantly silly love letter to the crap seaside towns of the UK. The protagonists are likeable and the incredible roster of actors in supporting roles make the most of their minutes on screen.
Plot-wise, it stumbles somewhat, and the final 20 minutes is an utter mess of disparate plot elements, but there’s enough charm and silliness to make the movie an overall enjoyable experience.
Eaten By Lions celebrated its world premiere tonight at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and will premiere in England at the London Indian Film Festival on June 25 and June 27.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.