Review: ‘The Nan Movie,’ starring Catherine Tate

August 24, 2022

by Carla Hay

Mathew Horne, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Catherine Tate in “The Nan Movie” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

“The Nan Movie”

Directed by Josie Rourke

Culture Representation: Taking place in England and in Ireland, the comedic film “The Nan Movie” features a cast of predominantly white British and Irish people (with one African American and one person of South Asian heritage) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Mean-spirited senior citizen Joanie Taylor, nicknamed Nan, reluctantly goes with her grandson on a road trip from London to Dublin to reunite with her estranged younger sister, who is dying from a terminal illness.

Culture Audience: “The Nan Movie” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of star Catherine Tate and the Nan character that she created for her BBC TV series, but everyone else will find this movie very hard to take.

Pictured in center row: Catherine Tate, Parker Sawyers and Katherine Parkinson in “The Nan Movie” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

Catherine Tate created the obnoxious elderly character Joanie “Nan” Taylor for short skits on her BBC comedy series “The Catherine Tate Show,” which was on the air from 2004 to 2007. “The Nan Movie” is the semi-torture of having to spend an entire road trip with this dreadful character. (“Nan” is a common nickname for a grandmother.) This junkpile film is just scene after scene of unfunny and repetitive scenarios where Joanie/Nan is excessively rude, crude and unbearable to be around—all for the sake of the filmmakers trying to force viewers to laugh at seeing an old woman character act in this putrid manner.

Directed by Josie Rourke, “The Nan Movie” is such an embarrassment to Rourke, she apparently asked her name to be removed from the movie after completing it. Brett Goldstein (of “Ted Lasso” fame) and Tate, who have no such shame, are credited as the screenwriters for “The Nan Movie.” Everyone involved in making “The Nan Movie” should be ashamed of themselves for creating this stinking mess of a film.

“The Nan Movie” follows working-class Nan going on a road trip with her hapless and easygoing grandson Jamie (played by Mathew Horne), as they travel from their hometown of London to Dublin. At first, Nan (who is a widow) thinks she’s going on a trip to a day spa in Coventry, England. But she finds out that Jamie (who’s doing the driving) is really taking Nan to visit Nan’s estranged younger sister Nell (played by Katherine Parkinson), also known as Nelly, who is dying of an unnamed terminal illness.

Along the way, vulgar shenanigans ensue: Nan hurls insults at people; she falls in with a bunch of rowdy young partiers (including the expected drinking and drugging); she crosses paths with some violent animal rights activists; and she urinates in the car. Nan and Jamie meet a friendly stranger in a bar named Mick (played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), and he’s invited along for the ride, but predictably isn’t quite as nice as he first appeared to be.

“The Nan Movie” also has a cartoonish “villain”: a traffic cop named Officer Mahler (played by Niky Wardley), an uptight and scowling grouch, who is based in Liverpool, England. Officer Mahler holds a grudge against Nan because Nan got Officer Mahler fired from her previous job for allegedly being “insensitive to the elderly.” Like a stalker, Officer Mahler shows up in various places where Nan and Jamie are, as if Officer Mahler has nothing better to do with her time but to try to catch Nan doing something illegal in places outside of Officer Mahler’s jurisdiction.

During this road trip, Jamie asks Nan to tell him why she and Nell haven’t spoken to each other in decades. This leads to dull flashbacks of Joanie and Nell in their childhoods, teenage years and adulthoods. As young adults, Joanie and Nell were partners in crime as thieves, stealing mostly furniture and then selling the stolen merchandise. The reason for the sisters falling out with each other had to do with their rivalry over the same man as a love interest: an African American military soldier named Walter (played by Parker Sawyers), whom the sisters met in England during World War II, when they were both in their 20s.

Walter is the only African American in Joanie and Nell’s social circle, so there are idiotic racist comments/scenarios in “The Nan Movie.” In one of the many mind-numbing flashback scenes, Joanie has this to say to Walter when they first meet each other at a dancehall: “Ain’t you a big, black beautiful sight for sore eyes.” When Nan and Jamie get to Ireland on the road trip, the movie is polluted with dimwitted xenophobic remarks about Irish people, including mindless and loathsome stereotypes that mention leprechauns and alcoholism.

This movie is so stupid, the math doesn’t add up for Nan’s age. If she were in her 20s during World War II (which took place from 1939 to 1945), then Nan would be in her late 90s or over 100 years old in the early 2020s. Instead, Nan is presented in the movie (which takes place in the early 2020s) as someone who’s supposed to be in her 70s or 80s. “The Nan Movie” also has some sloppy-looking and ugly cartoon sequences to depict some of the drug hallucinations experienced by Nan.

There’s really no point in further describing this trash dump of a movie, except to say that there really aren’t any redeeming qualities to it. The so-called jokes are terrible, the acting is close to unwatchable, and the story has no originality or innovation. If you want rude and lewd adult comedy, then you’re better off watching any number of stand-up comedian specials to fulfill that purpose, instead of killing some of your brain cells with the time-wasting abomination that is “The Nan Movie.”

Screen Media Films released “The Nan Movie” in select U.S. cinemas, digital and VOD on July 22, 2022. The movie is set for release on DVD on September 6, 2022. “The Nan Movie” was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on March 18, 2022.

Review: ‘Monster Family 2,’ starring the voices of Emily Watson, Nick Frost, Jessica Brown Findlay, Ethan Rouse, Emily Carey, Catherine Tate and Jason Isaacs

October 23, 2021

by Carla Hay

Emma Wishbone (voiced by Emily Watson), Frank Wishbone (voiced by Nick Frost), Max Wishbone (voiced by Ethan Rouse) and Fay Wishbone (voiced by Jessica Brown Findlay) in “Monster Family 2” (Image courtesy of VivaKids)

“Monster Family 2”

Directed by Holger Tappe

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, Scotland, the Himalayas and outer space, the animated film “Monster Family 2” features an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A British family that can transform into monsters is targeted by an American family in a spaceship that wants to capture all monsters that they think are menaces to society. 

Culture Audience: “Monster Family 2” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the first “Monster Family” movie and people who don’t mind seeing a substandard animated film with a silly story and messy production values.

Maddox Starr (voiced by Daniel Ben Zenou), Mila Starr (voiced by Emily Carey) and Marlene Starr in “Monster Family 2” (Image courtesy of VivaKids)

“Monster Family 2” is one of those sequels that shouldn’t have been made because hardly anyone was asking for it and it’s worse than its predecessor. The 2017 animated film “Monster Family” was a huge flop with audiences and critics. It’s mind-boggling that anyone thought it was a good idea to do a sequel to a movie that clearly was such an unequivocal dud in every sense of the word. But here is “Monster Family 2,” a time-wasting, incoherent and dull movie that fails at any attempt to be funny or interesting.

Holger Tapper, who directed “Monster Family,” is also the director of “Monster Family 2.” The first “Monster Family,” as atrocious as it was, still had a story that was simple enough for people of many ages to follow: Count Dracula (voiced by Jason Isaacs) became infatuated with a married woman named Emma Wishbone who, along with her husband and two adolescent children, got cursed and the Wishbone family all turned into monsters. A lot of shenanigans ensued until the curse was predictably lifted. And (spoiler alert) at the end of the movie, Count Dracula was frozen into an icicle-like cage with his own snowflake weapon.

In “Monster Family 2,” Count Dracula is able to free himself from his icicle prison, but he isn’t in this sequel as much as he was in “Monster Family.” Instead, the family ends up spending part of the movie in outer space because of a convoluted story involving a spaceship-residing human family that wants to capture the world’s worst monsters. David Safier, who co-wrote the first “Monster Family” movie with Catharina Junk, is the sole screenwriter for “Monster Family 2.” Because he’s the only screenwriter this time around, it’s now easy to see who’s mainly responsible for coming up with all the bad story ideas for this movie franchise, which is based on Safier’s children’s book “Happy Family.”

Through a series of circumstances, the Wishbones are turned into monsters again: Emma Wishbone (voiced by Emily Watson) is turned into a vampire. Emma’s husband Frank Wishbone (voiced by Nick Frost) becomes Frankenstein. Emma and Frank’s daughter Fay Wishbone (voiced by Jessica Brown Findlay), who’s about 16 or 17, is transformed into a mummy. Emma and Frank’s son Max Wishbone (voiced by Ethan Rouse), who’s about 12 or 13, is changed into a werewolf. The Wishbone family is British and live in a middle-class home in New York City.

In the beginning of the movie, the Wishbones are at the wedding of Baba Yaga (voiced by Catherine Tate), the elderly witch who put a spell on them in the first “Monster Family” movie. Baba Yaga is friendly with the Wishbones now. Her groom is an elderly man named Renfield. The Wishbones are the only guests at the wedding, which takes place in a church. Count Dracula’s three annoying (and thankfully mute) bats are still hovering around being the pests that they were in “Monster Family.”

The Wishbones think that they have gone back to their regular lives as human beings. The only “turmoil” in the family in the beginning of the story is that Fay—who is constantly on her phone to take selfies and to use her social media—is expressing some teenage rebellion because she’s secretly thinking about dropping out of school. Max, who is an insecure brat, knows this secret and threatens to tell the parents. Emma is generally more level-headed than her husband Frank, who is sort of a bumbling goofball when he gets overly excited.

Unbeknownst to this small wedding party, they are all being spied on by an American family of three people in a spaceship, which is called the Starr Copter. These spies are the Starr Family, whose motto is “I can make the world a better place.” The family consists of a billionaire philanthropist couple named Maddox Starr (voiced by Daniel Ben Zenou) and Marlene Starr and their teenage daughter Mila Starr (voiced by Emily Carey), who is sent to do all the dirty work for her parents.

Actually, the Starrs think that what they’re doing is the opposite of dirty work. These do-gooders are fanatical about finding and capturing the worst monsters in the world. They want to keep these monsters imprisoned in pods on their spacecraft. Mila ends up capturing Dracula. Her parents praise her and tell her to capture Baba Yaga next.

And that’s how Mila ends up literally crashing the wedding, where she states her intentions. She has drones that can lift people in the air. The Wishbone family tries in vain to stop Mila from abducting Baba Yaga and Renfield, but Mila whisks the bride and groom away and holds them captive on the Starr Copter.

During this weirdly slow-paced battle, Mila gets into an argument with Max and insults him by calling him “Pizza Boy.” Mila gives him this nickname because she says that the only thing it looks like he knows how to do in life is order pizza. It’s a mean-spirited dig at Max’s body size because he’s a little chubby.

“Monster Family 2” has some strange comedy that falls very flat, not including the body-shaming jokes that are downright moronic. During her argument with Max, Mila kisses him on the lips, which suggests that she’s actually attracted to him. After Mila kisses Max, they both say in disgust, “Eww!” This kissing scene just looks out-of-place in this movie.

Max is also dressed like a 1980s pimp when he goes to the wedding: He’s wearing gold chains, a brown fur-lined jacket, baggy pants and sneakers. Max’s father Frank compliments Max and tells him he looks great. It’s an odd remark, considering the outfit looks more like a Halloween costume than something an adolescent boy should be wearing at a wedding.

Even more bizarre: There’s an Oedipal moment when Max emerges in this inappopriate attire, he swaggers like he thinks he’s a pimp, and he looks at his mother and touches her face in a way that suggests that he thinks even his own mother could fall for his seductive charms. This is all being depicted for a boy who isn’t even old enough to have a driver’s license. And this hint of incestful thoughts from this boy is just too creepy for a family-oriented movie—or any movie for that matter.

Out on the street before they go into the church, Max happens to see a girl he has a crush on. But right at that moment, his baggy pants fall down. The girl and the friend who’s with her take photos on their phone. Max is naturally embarrassed. It’s a scene that’s awkwardly presented in the movie. And let’s just not discuss the cheesy dancing to MC Hammer’s 1990 hit “U Can’t Touch This” that comes later in the movie.

In the quest to rescue Baba Yaga and Renfield, the Wishbones are turned into monsters again when Max uses a magical amulet that he got from Baba Yaga. Mila’s parents tell her that the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti (also known as the Abominable Snowman) are next on her list of monsters to capture. What follows is a lot of ridiculousness involving the Wishbone family (in monster form) going to Scotland and the Himalayas.

The action scenes in “Monster Family 2” are poorly staged, with characters in the film moving too slow and/or standing around talking in what are supposed to be high-energy chase sequences. The dialogue is simply awful. The story is extremely tedious. The characters are unappealing, while the voice performances are mediocre. And there’s a truly cringe-inducing moment toward the end where some of the characters sing the Human League’s 1986 hit “Human,” in a scene that’s supposed to be sentimental for all the reasons you think, if you know the lyrics to the song.

The only notable thing that “Monster Family 2” has going for it is that the animation is very colorful. Worst of all, for a movie about a “monster family,” there is hardly anything spooky (even in a comedic way) about this film. Any movie that under-uses an iconic villain such as Count Dracula is a movie that’s not worth seeing.

VivaKids released “Monster Family 2” in select U.S. cinemas on October 15, 2021. Sky Group premiered the movie in the United Kingdom on October 22, 2021.

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