Eaten by Lions | Edinburgh Film Festival 2018 **
Dir.: Jason Wingard; Cast: Antonio Aakeel, Jack Carroll, Sarah Hoare, Natalie Davis, Kevin Eldon, Vicky Pepperdine, Asim Chaudhry, Hayley Tammaddon, Neelam Bakshi, Johnny Vegas, Tom Binns; UK 2018; 99 min.
British director Jason Wingard (In another Life) has assembled a multicultural absurdist comedy featuring two teenage half brothers: one looking for his father, the other simply following big brother where ever he goes. Their madcap journey from Bradford to Blackpool ends in the bosom of a large, wealthy Asian family, where histrionics are the rule.
Omar (Aakeel) and Pete (Carroll), are alone again after the death of their Gran. Having already lost their parents in a freak accident in Africa, where they had met their demise in the jaws of a lion. The idea of living with reactionary and repressive relatives (Eldon/Pepperdine) does not appeal to the brothers, so Omar sets out to find his genetic father, a certain Malik, whose name is on his birth certificate. In Blackpool they meet punky Amy (Hoare), her campy uncle Ray (Vegas) and a fortune teller (Binns) who turn out to be useful providing them with the address of the Choudray family. Ruled by two matriarchs Sara (Tamaddon) and Tazim (Bakshi), it turns out that Malik is not Omar’s father, his progenitor is actually Irfan (Chaudhry), Malik’s younger brother, who is about as mature than Omar himself. Pete falls into the arms of young Parveen (Davis), a teenager who does not speak to her family, but is very verbal with Pete, who also has a slight walking disability. When Parveen and Pete set out in grandfather Choudray’s pristine Rolls Royce, picking up oddballs from the waterfront, the scene is set for a raucous wedding finale.
Told this way, one might expect a run-of-the-mill comedy, but every character is simply a parody, and the clichés pile up like papadums. Since nobody is straight, the audience soon expects (and gets) OTT behaviour from everybody: the lack of straight versus crazy, the very essence of any comedy, is missing. This way we are left with funny numbers, but not much cohesion. DoP Matt North overdoes the colourful palette making everything as sweet as the candyfloss at the beach. Whether or not you find this funny, will obviously been down to your personal sense of humour. Let’s just say that Wingard’s lack of subtlety is often embarrassing, and the rather undeveloped characters and storyline make for disappointing viewing. AS
EATEN BY LIONS celebrated its World Premiere on 21June at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018 | London Premieres at the London Indian Film Festival on 25 and 27 June