Remember those British detective adventure series from 80s? Those days when, at most, there were four TV channels to choose from? There was Bergerac on Jersey, Shoestring in Bristol and well before them came The Avengers and Department S. But, if the brains behind The Mighty Boosh are to be believed, there was another, long-forgotten one set on the Isle Of Man. Mindhorn.
It was the second most popular series to come out of the island. Stay tuned for number one …… At the centre of Mindhorn the film is actor Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt), the star of the TV show, who played a detective with a very special power. A mechanical eye that allowed him to tell if somebody was telling the truth. Or not. Masculine to a fault, he drove a red Jag and the women just flocked to him. What more could he want? 25 years later, quite a lot. He’s washed up, living in a flat in Walthamstow and can’t even get a job on a commercial that would be the mainstay of ITV3 daytime. That’s until the police on the Isle Of Man want his help in capturing a deranged murderer calling himself The Kestrel (Russell Tovey) who will only speak to Mindhorn himself. It brings back all sorts of memories for Thorncroft, mainly to do with his co-star and ex Patricia Deville (Essie Davis) and his one-time stunt man Clive (Simon Farnaby).
The Mighty Boosh fans will be on familiar territory and will know exactly what to expect. Barratt and Farnaby are behind the screenplay, teaming with director Sean Foley who’s moved from the stage to the big screen, to give us a wonderfully silly comedy. The storyline, in particular, is joyously bonkers although maintaining that level of silliness for a whole 90 minutes proves to be something of a stretch. There are moments when it sags, but at least that gives you time to rest your chuckle muscles before the next onslaught. There’s more than enough laugh out loud moments and even more giggles, so you’ll be wearing a grin for the duration.
The film isn’t without its flaws and, disappointingly, the main one is Thorncroft himself. As a character in his own right, he isn’t sufficiently well defined, with all the social ineptitude of a certain Alan Partridge. And, as if to emphasise that, Steve Coogan himself appears in the film, ironically as another character from the Mindhorn series, Windjammer. He made it big in a spin-off series of the same name – and yes, that was the number one series made on the Isle Of Man. A decent enough joke, neither Coogan nor Barratt are given enough to work on with their respective characters.
Nonetheless, Barratt is still a hoot as Thorncroft, complete with a truly dreadful syrup, a wonderfully deadpan delivery and a terrible paunch. Co-writer Simon Farnaby nearly steals the show as his love rival, Clive: the banter between the two flows effortlessly and there’s a lingering feeling that they must have had a ball writing those scenes, especially the insults.
Mindhorn is cheeky, irreverent and has its tongue lodged firmly in its cheek. It may not be able to maintain the laughs for its whole running time, or be quite what you expect as a parody. But it will make you laugh a lot and chances are that smile will still be on your face when you leave the cinema. It’s just one big giggle.
Mindhorn is released in cinemas on Friday 5th May.