mon 20/05/2024

The Kemps: All True, BBC Two review - more self-promotion than self-mockery | reviews, news & interviews

The Kemps: All True, BBC Two review - more self-promotion than self-mockery

The Kemps: All True, BBC Two review - more self-promotion than self-mockery

Spandau Ballet-boys show willing but spoof rock-doc misses the point

Funny, almost: Martin and Gary Kemp

The spoof “rockumentary” always sounds like a great idea, but it’s hard to pull off. Largely this is because rock stars are so divorced from reality that an element of self-parody is already built in, albeit unwittingly (“everybody’s so different, I haven’t changed” as Joe Walsh deadpanned in "Life's Been Good").

This Is Spinal Tap (the Rosetta Stone of the genre) worked because it didn’t try to invent its material so much as amass a load of real-life examples and compress them into 82 minutes.

At least writer/director Rhy Thomas has some credibility in this area, having masterminded the droll prog-rock adventures of Brian Pern. All True (BBC Two) was a bit different though, because Thomas was collaborating with real-life stars playing versions of themselves. While the idea was that Spandau Ballet brothers Gary and Martin Kemp were wholeheartedly on board with the idea of ridiculing themselves and the pieties of the rock-doc genre (including their own straight-faced effort Soul Boys of the Western World, from 2014), Thomas would surely have felt freer if he hadn’t had the sensitivities of the artistes to consider.

His jokes might have been funnier too. A lot of stuff that was supposed to be hilariously off the wall was just obtuse or pointless, like the bit about Martin being married to both Pepsi and Shirlie, or the boys driving around town in a three-wheeled van with a tiny recording studio in the back, in case Gary suddenly got an idea for a song. The idea that Gary and his wife had launched a vegan meat substitute called Wonge which consisted mostly of meat (as exposed by Nick Robinson on the Today programme) was just crass (pictured below, Gary with Perry Benson, Daniel Mays and Alan Ford).

Which isn’t to say the Kemps didn’t give it a good go. Both of them have racked up a solid list of acting credits, and they brought an easy professionalism to the job which let them ride with the punches without lapsing into gurning idiocy. Gary even exuded a kind of professionally pained sincerity oddly reminiscent of that great pretender Tony Blair.

Martin played the more down-to-earth geezer with a penchant for shockingly bad gangster movies (close to the truth, as his CV attests). One of the set-pieces was the read-through scene for his “gangster universe” film including Al Capone, the Krays, and, for token gender balance, Jackie the Ripper, boosted by guest appearances from Christopher Eccleston as John McVicar, Alan Ford as all of the Hatton Garden gang and Daniel Mays as Dick Turpin. “Don’t I have any other lines than ‘stand and deliver, you twat?’” Mays demanded. “I went to fuckin’ RADA.” Funny, almost.

All True didn’t have anything new to say about stars and stardom, though it reheated a few old favourites. Michael Kitchen, formerly Brian Pern’s foul-mouthed manager, reappeared (hanging upside down) as the Kemps’ booking agent Harvey Stickles, urging the boys to sing at the President of Turkmenistan’s wedding for a £2m fee. But what if people find out they’ve been taking money from a dictatorship, agonised Gary? “You spout some twaddle about music being beyond politics and nobody’s any the wiser,” retorted the cynical Stickles.

The bad blood and legal squabbles that rocked Spandau Ballet got a few oblique mentions, like a joke non-interview with singer Tony Hadley and a few jibes about Gary commandeering all the songwriting income, but a bit of real blood on the carpet might have let the film pack a proper punch. In the end this was more self-promotion than self-mockery. 

A bit of real blood on the carpet could have let the film pack a proper punch


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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