Watching Burke and Hare is a bit like watching some well-intentioned school teachers putting on a skit for the kids at the end of the year. The humour is slapstick, the faces are all well-known but completely out of place and there appears to be some kind of competition to see who can do the worst accent amongst the members of the cast. It would be impolite for kids to walk out of a particularly bad final assembly and given that the entire British film industry has rounded up its most famous comedic actors and corralled them into performing in this film it is hard not to feel sympathy for its stars. That doesn’t stop Burke and Hare being near-unwatchable and the cinematic equivalent of being slowly drowned in luke warm tea while your friend’s dad tells you jokes, pausing occasionally to fall arse over tit.
Yellow haired niceicle Simon Pegg plays William Burke while Andy Serkis takes of his body-hugging motion capture suit to air his testes as William Hare. This pair of Irish immigrants attempt to make money in 19th century Edinburgh in a number of ways before stumbling on an opportunity to sell dead bodies to anatomical lecturer Dr. Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson). When few bodies appear they start bumping off a variety of transient citizens to earn cash for themselves and to keep Burke’s Shakespeare-loving mistress Helen M’Dougal (Isla Fisher) on track to produce an all-female version of Hamlet. Their antics are subject to an investigation by the local militia headed up by Ronnie Corbett’s Captain McClintock and the murdering pair feel the squeeze as the law draws close.
I’ve already dissed this movie fairly thoroughly in the opening paragraph, but I might as well kick its stupid face in while it’s still giggling on the ground after its latest pratfall. The main problem is that the script is unfunny, which is an issue for a comedy. It is intended to be dark, and has a 15 rating, but this is only conveyed in the occasional appearance of corpses. The sex scenes between Hare and his wife Lucky (Jessica Hynes) are undeniably humorous, but they form tiny islands of smiles in the dark seas of exasperated sighs which rim the coastline of the incredulous raised eyebrow.* Comedy personalities are wheeled out en masse but nothing is enough to salvage this drab, uninspired farce. In other words it’s about as good as Year One.
*Fan of nautical analogies, yeah?