Now I? as big a fan of TV? LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN as the next local person but even I? a bit bemused by their first big screen outing. What the Hell? going on here then? THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN? APOCALYPSE is either a bold and audacious surreal comedy where fact and fiction collide or it? a cheap and tawdry attempt to rip-off MONTY PYTHON and do a Holy Grail for the twenty-first century. Whichever it is it really doesn? work.

In the film? pre-publicity the League have gone out of their way to announce that even an audience unfamiliar with the Royston Vasey grotesques which populated their three TV series and Christmas special will be able to make sense of the movie version. Well, they would say that, wouldn? they? Way to sabotage your box office by pointing out the truth of the matter – which is that, if you haven? seen the TV series you really won? have a clue what? going on here. The plot – let? be generous and call it a plot – has storm clouds of doom gathering above the creepy Northern town of Royston Vasey. Some of the local people are worried. Sinister butcher Hilary Briss (Gatiss), hopeless sleazy businessman Geoff Tipps (Sheersmith) and predatory gay German Herr Lipp (Pemberton) are taken down into the crypt of the church by the Reverend Bernice (Shearsmith). Here they discover a doorway to another dimension – a dimension where Royston Vasey and its inhabitants exist only as figments of the imagination of a comedy troupe known as the League of Gentlemen. The League are bored with their TV creations and are working on a film script set in the 17th century. Briss, Tipps and Lipp cross into the real world to persuade – by fair means or foul – the League to write more episodes of the TV series and so save Vasey from apocalypse.

Oooo-kay. As storylines go it? incredibly self-indulgent, giving the League the chance to appear not only as the usual carnival of monstrosities but also as themselves. Talented as they all are, Gatiss, Shearsmith and Pemberton aren? exactly household names in the way the Pythons were so there? not much to be gained by seeing the three actor/comedians on screen as themselves, holed up in an office writing a script or reluctantly preparing to attend a charity function. It? all either a bit of an ego trip or a deliberately suicidal ploy to kill off Royston Vasey once and for all. The film would be a bit easier to cope with if it was actually funny – but it really isn?. There? plenty to smile at but no real guffaws. There? not much creative comedy here although it? fun to see Dr Chinnery (Gatiss) back in action and Edward and Tubbs are always fun, even if they?e underused. It? also a strange idea to use three of the less-loved RV characters to power the story; Briss is too sinister to be funny, Lipp is a one-joke character (as the script goes to great pains to point out) and it? left to Tipps to provide the funnies – which he just about does with some of the film? better lines. It? ironic really because Tipps is one of RV? less monstrous characters, evidenced by the fact that he? already ventured into the ?eal world?in an episode of the third TV series.

The film, already off-balanced by its odd plot, goes completely wild when it drifts into its 17th century segment as Geoff Tipps manages to transport himself into the League? screen play and become a hero by foiling an assassination attempt on the imbecile king (Hill). There? some desperate mugging by David Warner as the villainous Dr Pea and it? nice to see cheap-and-cheerful stop-motion animation back on screen with the attack of the assassin creature and the homunculus which appears at the climax of the film. Oh, and if you?e ever wanted to hear Victoria Wood say ?ock? this is the place to do it.

In the end it? hard to know what to think about THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN? APOCALYPSE. It? too clever for its own good and yet then not clever enough. It? fast and furious and yet it outstays its welcome. Whatever the film is, it seems to mark the end of the League? adventures in Royston Vasey and on the basis of this movie, I? not too sorry about that. What? next, boys?]]>

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