Keith Lemon: The Film review

Leigh Francis brings Keith Lemon the big screen. Sadly, the journey has not ended well.

If you think you can stand to be in the company of Leigh Francis’ popular character, Keith Lemon, for more than five minutes, then you would have thought Keith Lemon: The Film would be your comedy of the summer. Sadly, I very much doubt it’ll be anything to anyone other than an thoroughly unpleasant 90-minute ordeal, incapable of eliciting one laugh or one emotion other than a crushing realisation that you just spent money on seeing a film about a misogynistic buffoon whose aspirations (and the film’s plot) go no further than sleeping with Kelly Brook.

And it’s not just Kelly Brook, who’s seen here repeatedly hammering nails into her career, but the entire catalogue of Britain’s z-listers are present and correct, some coming off largely unscathed and others possibly sabotaging the little respect they still clung to. The cast ranges from Gary Barlow and Paddy McGuiness, to Peter Andre and Jedward. It’s like watching a ritual sacrifice, with celebrities selling their souls for a spot, any spot, on the big screen. The plot, too, is as simplistic as you’d expect, with Keith starting off as a small-time businessman in Leeds, trying to flog various useless inventions to the public.

Travelling to London for an inventor’s convention, he stumbles upon someone else’s thinly-drawn phone idea (I still have no idea what it was supposed to do), and manages to make it an overnight sensation by sticking a lemon to the back. His dreams come true and he forgets his northern roots, loyal girlfriend Rosie (Laura Aikman), and a doltish friend played by Kevin Bishop. The main problem with all of this is that none of it is funny, and most of it is grotesquely realised in a way that never seemed quite so offensive on the small screen.

Maybe it’s the fact that escaping a cinema screening is more difficult than changing the channel, or the realisation that the people surrounding you are seeing it out of choice, but every unpleasant aspect of Keith Lemon’s character is amplified to the point where it not only loses its sense of humour, but the brief affection and good-will generated by BAFTA winning panel show, Celebrity Juice. Tellingly, regular panellists Fearne Cotton and Holly Willoughby don’t make more than a cameo in the film and we’re instead treated to far too much Kelly Brook, Verne Troyer and David Hasselhoff for anyone’s taste.

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The film’s director, Paul Angunawela, has only ever worked with Francis, and it shows. Keith Lemon: The Film is so overindulgent as to become indecipherable even to hardened fans of the comedian. There’s plenty of Bo Selecta! gags and cameos (if you can call them that) which serve no particular purpose, but might actually alienate Francis’ younger fanbase. So particular is the humour and choice of celebrities that it’s hard to actually fathom who the film has been made for. Far too rude for children, but unfit for anyone else, it just happens, with no direction or reason to be.

The most perplexing thing is how proud of the film Francis seems to be in all the interviews and appearances he’s made recently. I was willing to give the film a chance based on this seemingly genuine satisfaction, even sampling TV show Lemon La Vida Loca in preparation. It’s the kind of publicity that has proved very, very lucrative before, and credit where it’s due, Francis – or Lemon at least – will probably never be this famous again. That this film has been made proves the popularity of the character he’s created, and the same fans who voted for him at the BAFTAs will undoubtedly turn out for this, too.

But, just when we were felling all patriotic, still basking in the glory of last year’s E4 sitcom success The Inbetweeners and its triumphant journey to the big screen (released in the US this summer), this comes along to prove what a fluke it may prove to be. It’s a small consolation that Keith Lemon: The Film will likely never be seen outside of the UK, since anyone who hasn’t been brought up on a diet of The X Factor and Katie And Peter won’t recognise a single personality. But then, if a comedy has forgotten to include jokes that don’t induce nausea and a general sense of wretchedness, it has failed on the most basic level.

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1 out of 5