Saturday, 25 January 2014

Up 'n' Under (1998)

In 1998 when this came out I was *I think* about 18. I saw this at the cinema despite having no interest in rugby league.

Let me explain, I come from St Helens, a town that is very big on the rugby league circuit. The town lives and breathes the sport - on cup final days every shop or house window is festooned with red and white bunting, like a second Xmas - and all my family are massive supporters. 

I don't like rugby. I had to play it at school and I hated it. As such I am the black sheep of the family. I can appreciate and even admire the love my community has for it, but I feel like I'm standing behind a glass wall when the season starts.

But comedy, and specifically northern humour and kitchen sink style films, have always been something I look upon fondly so when this came out I made sure I went to see it. John Godber is a very good though somewhat underrated playwright with a keen ear for the distinctive humour of his region and in adapting his own play here he crossed the floor from theatre to cinema. It was perhaps a little ill advised that he took the director's chair as maybe a more accomplished director could have created something more satisfactory as a production, but it's still entertaining enough, primarily because he chose wisely for his cast from TV comedy; Gary Olsen (2.4 Children) Samantha Janus (Game On) Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly) Richard Ridings (Common as Muck) David MacCreedy and Adrian Hood (both from Preston Front) play more or less to their sitcom stereotypes, plus there's Ralph Brown, Tony Slattery, Griff Rhys Jones, John Thomson, Susan Tully (yup, Michelle off of EastEnders!) and a visibly ailing Brian Glover in one of his last screen roles. Indeed the film is dedicated to him, the legend having passed away before its release. There's also many a former rugby player to be spotted too including Welsh international Ray Gravell as a referee and big Adam Fogerty, a Saints (my town) Halifax, Wigan, Warrington and Rochdale player who became quite a good actor.

And it goes without saying there was another factor for an 18 year old lad to go and see this on the big screen - the chance to see Samantha Janus in that infamous shower scene. My word, what an arse! Forget your Jennifer Lopez and your Kim Kardashian! I'm not afraid to admit that vision got me through a few cold and lonely nights back then.

Watching the film back, I can see it's no great shakes at all. It's extremely formulaic (but then I think Godber's script deliberately played to that and the humour inherent in the Rocky/underdog allusions somehow got lost in translation) and a clear cash in on other more successful Northern comedies and the neo kitchen sink revival from the time like Brassed Off and The Full Monty, but there's still something to enjoy and, now that time has passed, it's quite a nostalgic watch both in terms of personal memories, the cast and the 90s soundtrack.

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