Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 35 minutes, Director – “A Catherine Tate film” (No director credited)
Foul-mouthed OAP Joanie (Catherine Tate) finds herself taken on a road trip, by her grandson Jamie (Matthew Horne), to Ireland to meet her dying, estranged sister (Katherine Parkinson).
For those unaware of Catherine Tate’s Nan character, having first appeared on her sketch show in the early 2000s, she’s a foul-mouther OAP who once “knocked out a skinhead in Magaluf” and won’t turn down an offer of 2 for 1 Jagerbombs. Out of all the characters from The Catherine Tate Show, perhaps most notably Lauren ‘am I bovvered?’ Cooper, the one which appears to have lasted for Tate is Nan. There have been various attempts to do something with the character over the years, mostly in terms of the occasional special episode, however now comes the time for her to make her way to the big screen. Assisted, as usual, by grandson Jamie (Matthew Horne), Nan – actual name Joanie – finds herself taken, unwillingly, away from her ideal day spa trip in Coventry and instead on a detour to Ireland.
It follows a letter from her long-estranged sister, Nell (Katherine Parkinson), informing her older sibling that she’s dying. As nan and grandson travel across England and Ireland in a charity crafts van (the acronym Crafts Undo Negative Thinking – you can fill in the blanks for yourself – in bold letters on the side, a joke which appears in as many frames as possible, never to any response) Joanie details flashbacks to her younger life in the 40s, and a love triangle feud with her sister when it came to American solider Walter (Parker Sawyers). It’s during such sequences where some of the more uncertain jokes within the film are placed. One brief strand, quickly dropped, involves Joanie and Nell simply stating that Walter is black. Not with any offence or discrimination, just stating the fact that he is. In fact, Sawyers character feels there primarily not for the sake of the love triangle but to simply be the butt of some of the films most dated and laziest jokes. Gags which may have been more accepted 20 years ago, but now don’t just feel tired and dated, but most of all just off-taste.
Such patches don’t quite pair up with the running gags held within the craft van and the other modern day sequences. Extended moments involve constant belting out of Roll Call and discussion of Nan’s love of Fridge Raiders. One drawn out gag simply involves her listing off past presenters of Bake Off. During such moments it feels like the ramblings of the titular figure are all improvised, with Horne consistently script-bound, and then, much like the plot, pieced together in the editing room in the hope of something funny being produced. As if the screenplay simply said ‘Nan does something funny’ before jumping to the next location.
A technique which slightly matches the odd animation which moves a number of scenes along. It’s mentioned early on that Jamie does animations on YouTube, his subscriber count now in the low teens(!), and we get a taste of just what he’s doing. Multiple times the film jumps into sequences where paper cut-outs of the characters with bulging eyes, the looks and likes of which can be found in horror movies, race around the screen instead of simply having another scene, or jump cut, to get across the detail. Alongside strands which feel placed to simply push the run-time beyond 90 minutes, such patched simply feel as if they’ve, once again, been pieced together in the editing room. Trying to find something that can go link together to create a narrative of sorts which allowing Tate’s character to crack as many jokes in as many montages as she ‘needs’. Any attempt to make the audience laugh. Except, they don’t.
It’s not that the film is hateful. It’s not that it’s anything overly offensive. It’s simply the fact that The Nan Movie isn’t funny. Some moments feel as if they try too hard, others just pass by without getting any form of response. For much of the run-time you sit watching the screen, never really involved in what’s happening, and generally not responding. It’s likely that The Nan Movie will be quite forgettable viewing after a while. Perhaps going down as one of those British character/ sitcom adaptations. Remember The Harry Hill Movie? And yet, perhaps the most out-of-place and disappointing thing about it all is that it tries to end with a Chas And Dave track. After the 90 minutes or so that had just gone by Ain’t No Pleasing You would have seemed more fitting.
Fluctuating between what feels like mass improvisation and dated scripted gags no laughs arise from the road trip embarked on within The Nan Movie. Feeling pieced together in the editing room and never really engaging the audience. Perhaps one to skip going down to see.