As the opening credits roll we are told that Burke and Hare is ‘A true story, except the bits that are not’. In the end I couldn’t tell which was which, because there wasn’t anything interesting enough in it to be made up, and what was left was dull and boring.
I didn’t really enjoy this film last year when it was called I Sell the Dead, and I sure as hell don’t like the laugh free version dished up here.
When opportunity knocks for two ‘on the bones of their…’ Irish immigrants in Scotland named Burke (Simon Pegg) and Hare (Andy Serkis), it is like the film lifeless and unfunny.
A medical research ‘war’ of sorts had left renowned doctors running low on fresh cadavers – fresh being very much the operative word – and by chance the duo come across a particularly fresh one.
After some ‘Weekend at (Hare and) Burkies‘ shenanigans the pair manage to offload the stiff for a pretty fee, and they decide that corpse selling is a business that everyone is just dying to get into.
Only not quickly enough, this must have occurred during the 17 minutes in Scottish history when there wasn’t a decent plague or famine. Unfortunately to add insult to injury corpse robbing was somewhat frowned upon at the time and the graveyards heavily patrolled, so with a little support from Hare’s drunkard wife they begin to hatch plans to ‘fast track’ new product.
The rest pans out as it must, with pratfalls, sexual misunderstandings and anti-French jokes passing for comedy.
Simon Pegg is a comic genius – a couple months ago I would have added the proviso ‘when he writes his own stuff’, but having seen the dreadfully average ‘Paul’ I might be forced to change that to ‘when directed by mate Edgar Wright – and Andy Serkis has all of the attributes and incredible visual similarities to Rowan Atkinson. Only in this entirely laugh free zone neither get the chance to show and prove. At least Pegg has Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz on his resume, but Serkis will remain Gollum’s stunt double until like Atkinson he is cast in his own Blackadder or similar.
I feel obliged to add that Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry and Isla Fisher have supporting roles, but even if you are die hard fans of any of them I still wouldn’t bother looking this drag ham-fest up.
Final Rating – 5 / 10. If ‘based upon a true story’ means ‘boring story’ then by all means try to punch things up to make it interesting, but don’t call it a comedic romp without injecting some actual comedy.