You have your COVID quarantine coping mechanism, I have mine — which is watching old Youtube clips of Craig Ferguson’s dizzy, flirty, loosey goosey years hosting CBS’s “The Late Late Show.” Big fan.
Kathie Lee Gifford never moved the needle for me. But the singer/daytime chat-show hostess always seemed self-aware enough to make fun of herself, which is more credit than the arbiters of hip ever allowed her.
Pairing them up on “The Today Show” a few years back showed off his ability to make any situation, interview and conversation sillier or dirtier and her gift for bouncing off that, and knowing chemistry when she sees it.
So she scripted this Scottish rom-com for them to co-star in, and damned if she didn’t get “Then Came You” filmed on location in Inveraray, Ardkinglas House, Loch Fyne and Kilmorich Church, all in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. Gorgeous settings.
They lined up Elizabeth Hurley and Phyllida Law as co-stars.
And there are moments when Ferguson’s riffing and Gifford’s riffing back or starting a song that he interrupts that the chemistry she saw and wanted to exploit is obvious.
But good gawd, Kathie Lee. This is such a clumsy, cheesy, contrived script, with every contrivance obvious and abruptly introduced. And misshapen! What the hell is up with that third act?
I dare say she and Ferguson could have brainstormed something just as scenic, flirtier and funnier over a long lunch. Maybe with an actual screenwriter invited along to offer tips.
Gifford plays Annabelle Wilson, a plucky Nantucket widow who sold the family hardware store and is off on a bucket-list grand tour of Europe.
“I’ve gotta make new memories, or the old ones will kill me,” she vows.
Scotland is her first stop, the Awd House Inn, whose proprietor Howard (Ferguson) sadly isn’t quite as Awd as his name.
But he picks her up in a car that’s as old as he is (1962-63 Triumph Vitesse), so naturally she smells gas.
“We call it petrol, here,” he sniffs, putting on his overalls. “Flame retardant,” he jokes. “Can’t be too careful.”
He teases her about the riot of plaids that she packed.
“Didn’t know Mel Gibson was having a yard sale….You’re dressed like a SHORTBREAD tin!”
He’s heard of Nantucket.
“There’s a poem about it.” Yeah, we’ve all heard what rhymes with Nantucket.
And he’s curious about the box of chocolates she keeps close.
“That’s my late husband!”
The early “wee bit of Scottish humor” and banter lifts one’s hopes, as Howard pitches the limited menu and explains the ingredients of haggis to Annabelle, who just wants a civilized breakfast.
“Can I get the oat meal without the internal (sheep) organs?”
The place is falling down (not really), but the hardware store lady is handy with plumbing, leading to “big wrench, petcock and blowtorch” innuendo.
And then the first act ends and the picture peters out.
Every single scene after their “meet cute” and early introductions (Ford Kieran plays Howard’s lone friend and sometime helper) has its Function in the Script underlined, and is worked into the proceedings with a crowbar.
“Then Came You” makes nothing of the cute notion that Howard is a staff of one, and pretends to have other help that Annabelle never sees.
Liz Hurley was written into the picture, with nothing funny to say or do.
The innuendo flies out the window and “serious” comes in, the subtext of grief that Griffin works in for obvious reasons, but does so without a hint of subtlety. Just flashes of “sadness,” mostly out of the blue, and a “whoopie” scene so corny it wouldn’t have passed muster in the ’30s, much less today.
It’s a damned shame that Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and Michael Winterbottom beat them to the punch with their “Trip” movies, because I’d pay to see these two flirting and insulting and flinging double entendres on every high and low road in and out of Scotland. Maybe even in a Triumph Vitesse.
“Then Came You” turns into a trip you take with somebody who isn’t as much fun as you’d hoped. And that’s a trip spoiled.
MPAA Rating: unrated, profanity, innuendo
Cast: Kathie Lee Gifford, Craig Ferguson, Elizabeth Hurley, Ford Kiernan, Phyllida Law
Credits: Directed by Adriana Trigliani, script by Kathie Lee Gifford. A Vertical release.
Running time: 1:38