Deborah Ross

Sex and slaves

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I Want Candy is a British sex comedy, which should already sound alarm bells, but I will plough on heroically, as is my nature. It’s about two lads from Leatherhead — wannabe producer Joe (Tom Riley) and earnest auteur Baggy (Tom Burke) — who are still at film school yet are desperate to break into the big time. Frustrated by their arty film teacher (Mackenzie Crook) they head to London to sell their script, Love Storm. Eventually, they encounter a porn producer (Eddie Marsan) who says, OK, I’ll give you the money so long as you up the hard-core element and get porn queen Candy Fiveways (Carmen Electra) for the starring role, which, amazingly, they duly do. They then proceed to film Love Storm in Joe’s suburban house while his mum and dad are at work. Funny? Not a bit of it. Hilarious, then? Nope. Not for a nano-second. All I will say is this: if you’ve a free evening and have the choice between seeing this film or, say, shifting the fridge so you can have a really good mop underneath, there has to be more amusement in the fridge option. And at least you’ll feel virtuous afterwards rather than, well, queasy.

I Want Candy is puerile in a way that aims towards American Pie, if such can be called an ambition, but even falls well short of that. Amazing, I know, that anything could be sub-American Pie, but here you have it. There are semen jokes and blow-up-doll jokes, but laugh? I thought I’d never get started, and I didn’t. But apart from the unsophisticated, unfunny gags? Well, in that case, I feel duty-bound to report that minus those it is only predictable, derivative, tedious, distasteful, badly written, stupid, insulting to women, insulting to Eastern Europeans, clichéd, woefully directed and woefully acted all round. The two leads are useless, irritatingly working their mouths like cartoon goldfish, while the more established actors, Crook and Marsan, do what I suppose any actor has to do when their part is too insubstantially written to be credible: panto it up. Poor Crook even has to wear a comedy goatee. As for Carmen Electra, she’s a lovely woman, I’m sure, and her breasts are totally fab, but Ms Electra is possibly to acting what my toaster is to composing piano concertos (although not in the bath, obviously). This is a British sex comedy that isn’t sexy and isn’t comedic which may, in fact, make it very, very British indeed.

Talking of British — hey, how’s that for a smart link? God, I’m good — you cannot get more so than director Michael Apted’s Amazing Grace in which he tells the story of William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), the 18th-century MP who devoted his life to, and ultimately succeeded in, abolishing slavery. Wilberforce was, it would seem, a very decent and moral chap all round, just as this film is a very decent and moral film, although, fair’s fair, any film that does not contain pre-adolescent sex jokes is going to seem pretty decent and moral to me from now on. Still, it is beautifully shot, lavish attention is paid to period detail and it’s solidly performed with some neat turns from Albert Finney and Michael Gambon — yet? It somehow never lifts, flies, comes to life.

This may be partly to do with Wilberforce as his character is painted here, which is good and only that. He has no flaws, no misgivings, nothing to offer beyond his goodness. Why is he so good? Why does he care about this issue? I’ve no idea. The script goes so full out for story, for covering all the bases historically, that characters appear strangled before they’ve even had a chance to live. But it’s dry and, yes, rather boring for other reasons, too. It lacks modern relevancy. It lacks tension, as we know he will triumph eventually. It lacks a Carmen Electra to get her tits out for the boys. But what it lacks most of all are slaves.

I’m sorry, but just as I expect bandages if, for example, I go to see a Mummy film I expect to see at least a few blacks torn from their families and then shackled and beaten in a film such as this. But? Not the one. Not even a sniff of one. Amazing Grace is concerned only with the political struggle. So it’s political manoeuvrings and lengthy debates in Parliament but the grotesque human suffering on which the Empire was actually built doesn’t figure in any way we can feel. As such, we are kept, emotionally, at arm’s length at all times. It’s a worthy effort yet bloodless and as compelling as, say, watching a filmed version of Wilberforce’s entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Anyway, that’s that for this week, especially as I’ve given you two films that can be happily missed for the price of one. I think I must be a saint.