Red Nose Day Actually review – not funny, but at least it raised money – The Guardian

Despite all the celeb cameos the charity update of Richard Curtis’s romcom was bafflingly weak. But ultimately its job wasn’t to get laughs – it was to help people
The best will in the world is what we all have for Red Nose Day — and for Richard Curtis’s monumental effort over decades in helping to make it a great national instutition. I’m very happy to have got my debit card out on the night, like so many others. The convention is that you cheerfully overlook some of the gags that don’t come off on account of the wacky gang-show spirit and live-TV hijinks and because it’s all in a good cause. But the awful truth is that Red Nose Day Actually, the much-trumpeted special featurette update of Curtis’s 2003 romcom box office smash, really was bafflingly weak.

We knew in advance that Curtis had (understandably) decided not include the best bit from the original — Emma Thompson’s agonised secret tears over her husband’s infidelity — because the much-loved Alan Rickman, who played the part had passed away last year. But why should the script go out of its way to say that Joe, the long-suffering rock manager played by Gregor Fisher, and best friend of Bill Nighy’s outrageously incorrect star Billy Mac, had died? Mr Fisher is very much still with us. It seemed a superfluous moment of contrived poignancy.
We started with Andrew Lincoln showing up on Keira Knightley’s doorstep with his famous cards, with Chiwetel Ejiofor watching telly. The gag was basically the same, only this time Kate Moss pitched up as his new bride, standing next to him with cards of her own. Nice enough cameo.
Hugh Grant returned as the Prime Minister, who did his level best to rescue the situation by gamely reprising his silly dad-dancing routine down the No 10 staircase, falling over and spraining his arm. Incidentally, on the question of who has aged the best of the LA cast, that is definitely Martine McCutcheon playing his tea-lady-turned-wife. She genuinely doesn’t look any different from 2003. As for Grant, he looks distinguished, soigné. He could play Edward VIII.
Grant’s PM gave a press conference speech, with Robert Peston doing a cheeky walk-on and BBC Breakfast’s Charlie Stayt contributing an enigmatically silent cameo. Here, expectations were very high. In the original movie, Hugh Grant’s role was notable for a very feisty pro-British speech which proclaimed that we shouldn’t just be America’s poodle. Surely now was the time for some Trump material? No. Red Nose Day Actually steered clear of politics, except for saying how sad it was that Piers Morgan was still alive.
We had Radio Watford’s DJ, played by Marcus Brigstocke, on to interview the uproarious and incorrigible veteran singing sensation Billy Mac. The mere presence of Bill Nighy is enough to cheer any film up, and Nighy brought his languorous charisma to bear. He’s always funny, and I liked the idea of Billy covering ZZ Top’s Give Me All Your Lovin’ with the word “lovin” replaced by “money”.
Colin Firth was seen at the wheel of his family car, with his Portuguese wife Lucia Moniz next to him, and the gag was that he was terrible at Portuguese and didn’t understand when his wife told him she was pregnant again. Hmm. A lot Red Nose Day tolerance was needed to wave that joke through.
Liam Neeson (who himself hardly seems to have aged a day) was emotionally reunited with his son, the love of whose life turned out not to have changed. A sweet enough moment. But the only person who came close to delivering some actual comedy was Rowan Atkinson, reprising his role as the smarmy shop assistant taking an inordinate amount of time packing a simple red nose.
Red Nose Day Actually presumed a very great deal on the affectionate loyalty of the fans: I personally would have preferred a Red Nose update of Four Weddings or Notting Hill or The Tall Guy, the real Curtis gems. Perhaps there is something in the Red Nose Day atmosphere which actually militates against comedy — something in the fact that irony and cynicism have to be banished for the evening. Well, who cares? Even subjecting this well-intentioned squib to critical inspection seems obtuse. Red Nose Actually was not there to get laughs — it was there to get money to help people. And on that basis I am certain it was a great success.


Leave a Comment