For a while now, I’ve theorized there are only 15 British actors and they just walk from set to set. Half of them are in “Burke and Hare,” including Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Hynes, Bill Bailey, Tim Curry, Christopher Lee, Hugh Bonneville and whom I first thought was a Stephen Merchant lookalike was actually Stephen Merchant.
All of these actors — even Tim Curry! — are incredibly entertaining and they can apply charm to even the most mundane of lines. Unfortunately, that is exactly what’s happening in this movie. It seems like this great cast of actors was brought together because the director is the legenday John Landis of “An American Werewolf in London,” “The Blues Brothers” and “National Lampoon’s Animal House” fame.
Like John Carpenter or so many brilliant directors from decades past, Landis seems to have lost his touch. The story of William Burke and William Hare is filled with potential for dark humor and satire, yet this movie is completely lifeless, pun intended. Burke (Pegg) and Hare (Serkis) figure out a way to make money in 1820s by killing people and selling the bodies for science.
They are literally killing innocent people for money and yet this still feels like a light comedy. Half of the movie is devoted to Burke’s infatuation with the beautiful Isla Fisher and how he’s funding her all-woman show of ”Macbeth.” The only purpose of this entire storyline is to give Burke a heart of gold (he’s only murdering for love!) and to awkwardly compare Macbeth’s reason to murder to Burke’s.
All of the humor comes from the personalities of the actors. Serkis has this odd ruffian feel and to pair him up with Hynes (“Spaced”) with her wonderful wit is an inspired choice. Their sex scenes are either incredibly silly and could have been the best parts of the movie if it wasn’t for the embarrassing editing. Most of the movie contains these awkward cuts to the next scene as if someone is being cutoff mid-word. Before anyone can figure out why that was so abrupt, a time jump occurs.
This could be a really really good movie with the right sculptor. The look of the time is there, the cast is there and the story could be fun. Instead, Landis has no control over what he’s doing and that’s too bad.
The DVD has way too many interviews of the cast repeating the same thing about the story and how they really wanted to work with Landis. There are also two minutes of unmemorable outtakes and 23 minutes of fly-on-the-wall footage of them filming.
Film: 2.5 Yaps
Extras: 2 Yaps