The sound of a men’s chorus harmonizing through “Sloop John B.,” “Sail Away Ladies,” “Santiana” or “Haul Away Joe” still brings a tingle to the spine when those Cornish Fisherman’s Friends bring sea chanteys back to life in “Fisherman’s Friends: One and All.”
That’s a good thing, because this sequel to the unlikely indie hit about that unlikeliest of British pop chart toppers lacks the charm, wit and surprise of the original, a classic underdog story with lots of local color. And its contrived plot twists and less interesting narrative never let us shake the feeling that this is as unnecessary a sequel as has ever come down the slipway.
The original film had a death and a departure. And Daniel Mays had the good sense to not return as the (fictional) struggling record company A&R man/talent scout who hustles the ten voice choir to stardom.
That narrows the plot possibilities to being older, isolated from pop culture and “politically incorrect” singers who are now famous enough for folks to care and be insulted. They’ve had a record deal, so now they lose it. They had a grand tenor, but he moved to Australia.
And all that leaves leader and lead singer Jim (James Purefoy) in a mood, limiting his conversations with his old salt Dad (David Hayman) to memories or hallucinations. Because Dad’s dead.
They’re not adept at handling the press or group conference calls. And the new A&R man (Joshua Maguire) isn’t up to keeping them in line any more than his boss (Jade Anouka), earning the ire of the chief of Island Records (Ramon Tikaram). The characters are even more generic and less interesting than their counterparts in the first film, and the bland performances don’t change that.
Jim crawls into the bottle, bitter and rude, with only his granddaughter (Meadow Nobrega) and mother (Maggie Steed) for comfort.
Everything co-director/writers Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft (Piers Ashworth is also credited in the script) try feels played, played-out and played-out at half speed.
A lame audition montage to add a new tenor to make them a ten-voice group again can’t get a laugh out of one bloke who thinks singing “In the Navy” by the Village People will win him a spot, or the posh who does a fine, showy tune from “Pirates of Penzance.”
The “trials of fame” scenes include a radio chat with chipmunkish former “Top Gear” host Chris Evans, and that goes as dully as one might expect.
Let’s bring in a once “wild” alcoholic folk singer (Imelda May, pretty good) as a new love interest for crusty Jim. Let’s set our sights on getting into the famed Glastonbury Pop Festival as a means of getting our record deal back.
None of it is remotely original, little of it is even the least bit charming.
Only the tunes save this from being an utter waste of time. And you can buy that as a soundtrack and save yourself an hour and fifty minutes.
Rating: PG-13 (Language|Some Suggestive Material)
Cast: James Purefoy, Dave Johns, Jade Anouka, Sam Swainsbury, Richard Harrington, Maggie Steed, Ramon Tikaram, Joshua Maguire, David Hayman and Imelda May.
Credits: Directed by Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcraft, scripted by Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft. A Samuel Goldwyn release.
Running time: 1:52