As the rosette emblazoned (or, at least, drawn) on the cover reminds us, Viz has been doing this for forty years now.
Yes, that’s right. There have now been four whole decades of the popular British adult comic, which is ‘Not For Sale To Children’. In theory, this should mean it has now reached middle age or at least some semblance of maturity?
Has it though? Well, as Viz’s longest running character, the foul-mouthed TV personality, Roger Mellie, The Man on the Telly would say: “Hello, good evening and bollocks.”
In other words, “no”. As another publication which lasted in print for roughly half as long as Viz’s 40 years to date once memorably put it, this is a magazine “for men who should know better.”
This edition of the Viz annual, promises “a brassy fanfare of crowd pleasing blasts from issues 262-271.” So what’s included?
Roger Mellie appears opposite Gemma Collins on a celebrity version of Channel 4’s Naked Attraction. Aldridge Prior, The Hopeless Liar gets his perfect job: as President Trump’s press secretary: (“The President can do a one inch punch just like Bruce Lee and it would instantly kill you. FACT!”). Raffles, the Gentleman Thug is up to his usual tricks, (“Don’t forget your red flag, Bunny! We’ve got to absquatulate before the Scuffers get here!”). Old favourites return (“There is precious little sunshine for those living in the shadow of The Bottom Inspectors”), alongside strange newcomers (“Wally Walton’s Emergency Scorpion Squad and Wall To Wall Carpet Warehouse”). If you’ve read Viz before, you’ll know what to expect.
Viz has never been just a comic, however. Nearly half of it is made up of features usually satirising the celebrity-obsessed culture of the tabloid press. Highlights in this book include ’20 Things You Never Knew About Hats,” and a spoof of ‘Take A Break’ magazine called ‘Take A Shit’. There’s also a special festive edition of Roger Mellie’s Profanisaurus.
Mrs. Brady: Old Lady. Letterbocks. Gilbert Ratchet. Big Vern. The Broon Windsors (a bizarre amalgamation of the family from the long running comic strip, The Broons and the Royal Family). Mr Logic (“He’s An Acute Localised Body Smart in the Rectal Area”). I’ve really only scraped the surface of the world of Viz here.
Perhaps you think Viz is crude, vulgar and disgusting. Perhaps you think it is sometimes or often quite brilliant. You are both right.
Or as senile Daily Telegraph reader Major Misunderstanding says to an estate agent and his clients who he has mistaken for a group of young anti-Trump protesters, “Go back to your bedrooms and play on your ‘You-Tubes. Nobody cares tuppence for what you think.”
Chris Hallam has written a feature on Viz for the magazine, Comic Scene Volume 2, Issue 11, published in mid-December 2019
Payton Hobart really wants to be president. He really, really wants it, in fact. He seems to have planned out every detail of his two terms in the White House already. And he is only seventeen years old. He seems to the living example of why anyone who wants to be president enough to successfully go through the process of being successfully elected is probably precisely the wrong person to be doing the job.
Netflix’s new comedy drama begins with Peyton (Ben Platt) launching his campaign for election to the position of student body president of his Santa Barbara high school. This proves to be a surprisingly big deal fought with almost all of the intensity of the actual presidential elections, Hobart imagines one day fighting himself. Indeed, that’s the plan for the series too: future seasons of The Politician aim to focus on different political campaigns occurring throughout Peyton’s life. The brilliant opening title sequence (which uses the excellent 2005 song, Chicago, by Sufjan Stevens) depicts Peyton the politician being created by a Frankenstein-like process of alchemy, before offering his hand to greet the viewer.
The opening episodes of Ryan Murphy’s series are very twisty and bubble over with exciting story possibilities. Imagine Tracy Flick (Reece Witherspoon) in 1999’s film Election magnified by ten. Peyton is slick and like Kennedy, Bush and Trump before him has been born rich. He seems to inspire a phenomenal amount of loyalty in both his girlfriend Alice (Julia Schlaepfer) and his campaign team (played by Laura Dreyfuss and Theo Germaine). But he also seems erratic and clearly has skeletons in his cupboard. What is his exact relationship with his handsome rival, River (David Corenswet)? Are they gay or bisexual? In fact, this probably isn’t a problem: everyone seems to be bisexual here. The whole thing is a bit like a 1980s Bret Easton Ellis novel at times.
There are other intriguing elements notably potential running mate, Infinity Jackson (Zoey Deutch: daughter of Back to the Future’s Lea Thompson), an apparently sweet-natured character dominated by her horrendous, gold-digging grandmother (an excellent Jessica Lange). Peyton himself is dominated by his own bohemian Lady MacBeth-like mother (another Oscar winner, like Lange and also great here). River’s girlfriend, Astrid Sloan (Lucy Boynton) also seems like a potentially interesting character, at least at first. The fine actor Bob Balaban also gets a high billing here as Peyton’s step-dad, but is barely in it.
Sadly, like a morally bankrupt politician, the series does not live up to its early promise. Perhaps that’s the problem with planning several seasons in advance like this: the creators seem to have lost interest in this story and started setting up the next series a few episodes before the end. The election story-line fizzles out. The mid-season episode, ‘The Voter’ depicts an apathetic student totally ignoring the election day events occurring around him. This is an interesting idea which might have provided a fresh new perspective on events: not everyone at Peyton’s school (or in society generally) is obsessed with politics, after all. But the voter (played by Russell Posner) is clearly anything but typical. He is far more drug-obsessed, girl-obsessed (a point over emphasised with far too many shots of him checking girls out) and violent than anyone around him. The episode is a complete dud.
Despite these flaws and too many irrelevant musical interludes from the talented Platt, however, The Politician is still well-acted and compelling enough to make it worth viewing. But as Peyton himself is once cruelly described, this is more Gerald Ford than Barack Obama.
(Special awards for people who manage to stay alive long after you think they’ve died). 1. Olivia de Haviland (103). Actress. Star of Gone with the Wind (1939). Born before the Russian Revolution. To put things in perspective, the three other stars of Gone with the Wind died in 1960, 1967 and 1943. 2. Bill Tidy: Cartoonist. Used to be on TV a lot. A British, non-perverted Rolf Harris (85). I’m sure that’s how he’d want people to think of him. 3. Kirk Douglas (102). Born 13 years after the first aeroplane flew. “I’m Spartacus!” “I’m Spartacus!” “I’m…very old.” 4. Sirhan Sirhan (75). Assassinated Robert Kennedy in 1968. In prison ever since. 5. Lady Clarissa Eden, the Countess of Avon (99). Niece of Churchill. Widow of Sir Anthony Eden (1897-1977) who was Prime Minister (1955-1957) before Theresa May was born. She was the second wife of Eden, one of only three divorced men to become British Prime Minister. The third was Boris Johnson. 6. Former senator Bob Dole (96). Widely seen as too old when he ran for US president in 1996. Sample jokes from the time: “Dole was hit hard by his divorce…his first wife got to keep the cave.” “When Clinton sees a glass of water, he thinks: ‘oh dear. It’s half empty’. When Dole sees one he thinks, ‘oh great! Somewhere to keep my teeth!’” 7. Sidney Poitier. Actor (92). Huge in the 1950s and 1960s. 8. Rose West: murderer. Not that old (65). A bit surprised she’s still around though. 9. Frank Williams (88). The vicar in Dad’s Army. 10. Betty White (97). Last of the Golden Girls. 11. Jerry Lee Lewis (83) Musician. Great Balls of Fire. 12. Kim Novak (86). Star of Vertgo. 13. Tippi Hedren (89). Why do birds suddenly appear, every time she is near? 14. Dick Van Dyke (93). “I’m Dick van Dyke! I hope you are too” Google him and it comes up with ‘Dick Van Dyke causes of death’. But he isn’t dead. Diagnosis: Old.
Director Stanley Kubrick considered withdrawing the film soon after release in response to tabloid reports that groups of young men had been launching ‘copycat’ manned space expeditions to the planet Jupiter.
Conspiracy theorists have speculated that Kubrick made the film as part of a plot to fake the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landings. This is, of course, nonsense. He was already too busy faking the Vietnam War.
The final line of the film is “My God! It’s full of stars!” This claim is untrue: in fact, there are no Hollywood stars in it. Leonard Rossiter is literally the most famous person in the film and even he hadn’t been in ‘Rising Damp’ then.
The apes at the start of the film are speaking in genuine prehistoric dialect. Roughly translated, they are saying things like: “God, this is taking a while to get going isn’t it?” “Hey! Watch what happens when I throw this bone in the air!” and “Shit! Where did that big black thing come from? That wasn’t there just now…”
Ever the perfectionist, Kubrick made one extra throw the bone in the air 7,674 times, even before he switched his camera on.
The song ‘Daisy Bell’ was not Kubrick’s first choice for the famous HAL shutdown scene. He had originally planned to use the song, ‘Cinderella Rockerfella’ sung in duet with another computer voiced by Barbara Streisand. This didn’t happen only because Kubrick never thought of it.
Although authentic-looking, very few of the scenes were actually shot in space.
Stanley Kubrick originally planned to film the movie in real time, starting in the prehistoric era.
Some viewers reported finding the film overlong. Some even claimed it was longer than the actual year, 2001 itself, including those who had watched it during the year, 2001.
A pilot for a spin-off TV sitcom , ‘You Can Call Me HAL,’ in which the computer sang ‘Daisy Bell’ during the credits and occasionally killed people was made, but never aired as it was shit.
Some have noticed that if you move the letters of the name ‘HAL’ one letter back in the alphabet it spells out the initials: ‘GZK’.
Things which the film predicted correctly about the year 2001: there would be some were people around doing stuff with computers and space. Things it got wrong: manned space expeditions to Jupiter, computers don’t usually take that long to shut down, classical music wasn’t that popular.
Kubrick was reportedly disappointed that very few people really thought the flying bone had actually turned into a spaceship.
He also was surprised so many people guessed the ‘twist’ that the planet of the apes at the start was supposed to be Earth.
Alternative names for the film which were considered were: Million Dollar Space Baby, The Keir Dullea Movie, Monolithicent, Kubrick’s Pube and The Apes of Wrath.
Ten ways in which the world would really have been different without the Fab Four…
The hit Danny Boyle film, Yesterday envisages a world in which the biggest band of all time had never existed. But what if they really hadn’t? Consider…
First things first: the early series of Thomas The Tank Engine would not have been narrated by Ringo Starr. Someone else would have to have been found to do it instead, wasting considerable time and expense.
The career of the talented multimedia artist, Yoko Ono would have been allowed to continue without interruption, rather than being crudely sidetracked.
“Yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye, crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess, man, you been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down, I am the eggman, we are the eggmen, I am the walrus, Goo goo g’joob”. Out of context, such lyrics would just sound like drug-induced nonsense. Imagine!
The career of fashion designer Stella McCartney would never have happened. This would obviously…er…have huge effects for everyone.
It is quite likely (although not certain) Linda McCartney’s vegetarian and vegan food range, would not have been launched. Julian Lennon would have not had a 1984 number 6 hit with ‘Too Late For Goodbyes’ either.
Pete Best would probably feel better about how his career has gone.
None of the Beatles’ post-Beatles careers would have occurred. Imagine no Mull of Kintyre. No Frog Chorus. So This Is Christmas. Imagine no…Imagine.
The film explicitly stated that the Beatles-influenced Oasis had never existed either, in which case, isn’t it a bit surprising Jack didn’t have a go at an Oasis track too? Although perhaps not Cigarettes and Alcohol, as cigarettes are another one of the things that don’t exist in this world. One wonders if Oasis would still have existed in some form anyway or how strongly they or other bands would have been affected by the Beatles’ absence. Would Madonna sound the same? Would Lady GaGa? Would Martin Amis have written in the same way? Ultimately, we will never know.
The Monty Python film, The Life of Brian would not exist as it owes its existence to George Harrison financially bailing the film out, as he wanted to see it himself. Eric Idle’s post-Python parody, The Rutles would also not exist.
Needless to say, the Beatles’ films, A Hard Day’s Night, Help! and Yellow Submarine would never have been made without The Beatles. Nor would any films inspired by them such as Backbeat, the little-seen Across The Universe. Or Yesterday.
The popular TV cartoon series, He-Man and the Masters of the
Universe ran from 1983 until 1985. Essentially designed to promote the Mattel
toy range of He-Man action figures, the series was based around Adam, a prince
on the planet Eternia and his ongoing struggle for control of Castle Greyskull
with his rival, the malevolent Skeletor. By declaring “By the power of
Greyskull!” Adam could transform into the all-powerful He-Man. There were a
whole host of other characters, plus a spin-off entitled She-Ra in 1985, aimed
Despite being set on a mythical world, He-Man would often end with
a straight to the camera moral message to the audience from some of the
characters. These were sometimes edited out of the British transmissions.
Here are just some of them:
no magic drugs (He-Man)
today’s story Ilena tried taking a magic potion which she thought would help
her. Well, she found out there aren’t any magic potions. And you know what?
There aren’t any magic drugs either. Anytime you take one from anybody but your
parents or your doctor, you’re taking a very big chance. Your gambling with
your health, maybe even your life. Drugs don’t make your problems go away, they
just create more.”
Skeletor would be especially well advised to stay off cocaine as he doesn’t
have a nose.
when doing practical jokes (Man-At-Arms)
“You’ve all seen how Orko’s magical tricks don’t
always go the way he planned. Sometimes they backfire on him. The same thing is
true of practical jokes. Sometimes they don’t go the way you planned, and you
or someone else can get hurt. So be sure and think twice before playing a joke
or a trick on anybody. It might not go the way you planned and someone could
wind up losing a finger or an arm, or maybe even an eye. And no joke is worth that
is it? See you again soon.”
Bloody hell! An arm or an eye? What sort of practical
jokes were they thinking of? One involving a chainsaw???
Respect Magna Carta (He-Man and Teela)
“A very long time ago a wonderful document came into being. It was called
the Magna Carta.”
“It was the first big step in recognizing that all people were created
equal. But even though more laws have been passed to guarantee that, there are
still those who try to keep others from being free.”
“Fortunately Queen Sumana realized in time that only by working together
could her city be saved. And that’s the way it should be. Together.
they had Magna Carta on Eternia too then? I didn’t know they even had it in the
ram things too much (Ram Man)
today’s story I sure was busy. Boy, did that hurt. Ramming things may look like
fun, but it really isn’t. Trying to use your head the way I do is not only
dangerous, it’s dumb. I mean you could get hurt badly. So listen to Rammy, play
safely and when you use your head, use it the way it was meant to be used, to
think. Until later, so long!”
that? If you’re ramming while reading this, please stop immediately. Ram Man
(not to be confused with ‘Rainman’) was a minor character. He’s wrong about
this though. Ramming is definitely fun. Ram Man, thank you man.
Sleep properly (Orko and Cringer)
“Hi, today we met some people who had slept for over two hundred years.
Well, we don’t need that much sleep, but it is important to get enough sleep.
So here’s some things to remember. Don’t eat a lot before going to bed, a glass
of milk or a piece of fruit makes a good bedtime snack. Try to go to bed at the
same time every night, and avoid any exercise or excitement before going to
bed. Well, goodnight. Oh, goodnight Cringer!”
eating fruit before bedtime really help you sleep? I’m not convinced.
all have a special magic (Sorceress)
“Today we saw people fighting over the Starchild, but in the end
her power brought these people together. It might surprise you to know that all
of us have a power like the Starchild’s. You can’t see it or touch it, but you
can feel it. It’s called love. When you care deeply about others and are kind
and gentle, then you’re using that power. And that’s very special magic indeed.
Until later, good-bye for now.”
was clearly to busy building a nest to read the first moral, Sorceress. Stay
off the magic drugs!
Your brain is stronger than
any muscle (Man-At-Arms)
“Being the most powerful man in the universe isn’t all that makes He-Man such a great hero. Being strong is fine, but there’s something even better. In today’s story He-Man used something even more powerful than his muscles to beat Skeletor. Do you know what it was? If you said, ‘his brain,’ you were right. And just like a muscle, your brain is something you can develop to give yourself great power.”
I’m not sure Man-At-Arms was
the best choice to put forward this argument, to be honest. He has “university
of life” written all over him.
Play it safe (He-Man and Battle Cat)
He-Man: “I’d like to talk to you for
just a moment about safety. When we go to the beach there are lifeguards there
to watch out for our safety. Crossing guards are in the street for the same
reason, to help protect us. Now things like that are fine, but we can’t count
on someone always being around to protect us. We should practice thinking of
safety all the time. So don’t take a chance. And that’s true whether you’re
crossing a street, or driving a car. Think safety.” Battle Cat: (Roaring)
The beach? ‘Crossing
guards’? Has He-Man been to Earth at some point? And what does “practice
thinking of safety” mean? Nice of Battle Cat to contribute here too. Much
Learn from experience (He-Man and
He-Man: “As we’ve just seen Skeletor went
back into the past to make evil things happen. In reality no one can go back
into the past, that’s only make-believe. But we can try to learn from the past,
from things that have happened to us, and try to apply them toward being better
people today. Remember, it’s today that counts. So make it the best day
possible. Until next time this is He-Man wishing you good health and good
Battle Cat: (Roaring)
Learn from he mistakes of
history. But also live for today: that’s all that matters. Make your mind up,
No job is unimportant (He-Man)
“Have you ever had a
job to do you thought was boring and unimportant. We all have. Opi did. But no
job is unimportant. Opi learned that if he’d done the little jobs his father
gave him, things would not have gone wrong. So remember, any job worth doing is
worth doing well. No matter how dull it may seem at the time. Bye for
Sadly, this one isn’t true.
Some jobs are both boring and unimportant. Writing the moral messages at the
end of children’s TV cartoons, for example.
Fighting is bad (Teela)
“Some people think the
only way to solve a difference is to fight. Skeletor for example, his answer to
every problem is fight. He doesn’t care who’s right or wrong. He thinks that
might makes right. Well, it doesn’t. He-Man knows that, even with all his
power, he always tries to avoid fighting. Fighting doesn’t solve problems.
Fighting only makes more problems. See you soon.”
Bloody hell! This is a bit
rich. He-Man spends half of every episode fighting.
Read a book (He-Man)
“I hope you enjoyed
today’s adventure. You know television is not the only way to be entertained by
an exciting story. There is another way; it’s called reading. And one of the wonderful
things about books is that they allow you to choose whatever kind of adventure
you like; a trip with an astronaut, an adventure with the great detective
Sherlock Holmes, a comedy, anything. You can find it in a book at your school
or neighbourhood library. Why I’ll bet there are even some good books right in
your own home just waiting to be read.”
In other words, in the immortal words of the 1980s UK kids’ show, ‘Why Don’t You?’ “switch off your TV set and go out and do something less boring instead.” Especially now this episode of He-Man has finished.
Lolly Adefope, Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard, Charlotte Ritchie, Kiell Smith-Bynoe, Ben Willbond, Katy Wix
The spirit of Rentaghost is resurrected in this recent BBC sitcom, the highest rated British TV comedy series of 2019 thus far.
Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe play Alison and Mike, a young married couple whose lives are transformed when Alison unexpectedly inherits a large, but dilapidated rural manor house, following the death of an unknown elderly aunt.
The house contains many secrets, however, not least a large party of ghosts who dwell within. All are from different historical time periods and all are invisible to most normal humans, ensuring their initial attempts to haunt the house’s new owners all in vain, rather like the Tim Burton film, Beetlejuice. This changes when Alison (Ritchie star of Fresh Meat and Call The Midwife) bangs her head in an accident. Soon, she alone, can see the home’s phantom residents, whether she wants to or not.
The ghosts – all played by the former cast of the acclaimed Horrible Histories and Yonderland and who, mostly, also wrote this – are, of course, the chief source of fun here. Mathew Baynton (The Wrong Mans, Quacks), for example, plays a romantic poet hopelessly besotted with the still very much alive and married Alison, while Katy Wix (Not Going Out) plays the ghost of a slightly charred 17th century peasant woman apparently burnt to death for witchcraft.
Most hilarious are the great Simon Farnaby (The Detectorists and, appropriately, the man who sang ‘Stupid Deaths’ on Horrible Histories) as a disgraced 1990s Tory politician, still massively pompous, despite now being permanently trouser-less having died in some unspecified sex accident. Laurence Rickard also works wonders as Robin, (“bum and chips!”) a caveman, who lived on the grounds of the estate, long before it was built.
How did such a random assortment of characters ever come to live in the same house, even at different times? Why does every one of the Ghosts seem to have died prematurely? Doesn’t it all feel a bit like a children’s programme? Ultimately, none of these things really matter. Were it not for the presence of a few deliberate adult references (including a brief appearance by a genuinely scary child ghost), this would fit in perfectly well on CBBC.
Again, though, this hardly matters. Occasionally, Ghosts’ large regular cast works against it and the show is overwhelmed by chaos and silliness. But overall, this is good fun from a talented bunch of actors and writers. If your mansion house needs haunting, look no further.
People all over the land have been thrilling to the antics of the huge lumbering giant BFJ, otherwise known as Boris Fucking Johnson.
“I love how he uses funny long words which nobody understands, ” says Colin, 66, from Kent. “Like ‘rambunctious’ and ‘flibbertigibbet’. I also like how he travels to lots of different countries all around the world, really fast.”
Miranda, 44, from Chelsea, also enjoys Boris Fucking Johnson’s adventures. “He’s always saying the wrong thing!” she laughs. “He blows dreams into people’s ears. Mainly dreams about the UK benefiting economically by leaving the European Union.”
Boris Fucking Johnson has definitely NOT been seen enticing young women out of their windows as some have claimed.
Other, less popular recent characters from the same stable include Danny Alexander: Champion of the World, James Brokenshire and the Giant Speech, George Osborne’s Marvellous Economic Medicine and The Fantastic Dr. Liam Fox.
Director: Steve Sullivan. Running time: 105 minutes
Back in the 1980s, a Manchester man called Chris Sievey started appearing in public wearing an oversized Papier-mâché head. At first, he called the character, ‘John Smith’ before changing it to ‘Frank Sidebottom.’ Frank soon became something of a success. You may well have seen him yourself. This documentary tells his story, or rather, the story of his creator. Chris Sievey ended up playing Frank for the rest of his life.
Chris appeared live as Frank as well as on Saturday morning kids’ shows like Motormouth and in the comic, Oink! He worked with a few people who later became famous such as Mark Radcliffe (interviewed here, before his recent illness), Caroline Aherne and Jon Ronson. Ronson later wrote a book about his time with Sievey, which later became the 2014 Michael Fassbender film, Frank.
He was never hugely famous himself, despite once introducing Bros (at the height of the short-lived ‘Brosmania’ era) at Wembley stadium. He played songs and told jokes, appearing with a ventriloquist’s dummy made in Frank’s image called ‘Little Frank’. He was often not very funny and his songs were often not good.
Despite this, it’s hard not to be won over by the warmth of this affectionate tribute to Sievey (who died in 2010, aged just 54) from director Steve Sullivan. There was certainly a dark side to Sievey: his success with Frank Sidebottom came only after years of persistent failed attempts to launch his own music career notably with band, The Freshies. A song called, ‘I’m In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk’ came closest to success. Like Sidebottom, he seems to have been possessed by a child-like optimism and a naivety about such things as paying taxes and bills which must have made him very hard to live with. He seems to have grown to resent the fact his only real fame was achieved through a made-up character. No joke intended, but he also seems to rather have let the success he did have as Frank Sidebottom go to his head.
Supported by interviews from fans like poet John Cooper Clarke and comics Ross Noble and Johnny Vegas as well as Chris’s son, Harry, who was subsequently tragically killed in a cycling accident in 2017, this is a first class documentary about a minor popular culture icon who deserves to be remembered.
Director: Adam McKay Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry
The office of US Vice President was for a long time commonly overlooked. The position was deemed “not worth a pitcher of warm spit” by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first Vice President, John Nance Garner while as Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) points out here, the job is essentially based around the principle of doing nothing other than waiting for the president to die.
Dick Cheney was a different sort of Vice President, however. Whereas some leaders, such as the late George H.W. Bush have been fully aware of the potential opportunities afforded by the position, (Bush had, after all, spent two terms as Veep himself) and have thus deliberately picked non-threatening buffoons like Dan Quayle as their Number 2, Bush’s own son (played here by Sam Rockwell) recognised he was hopelessly out of his depth and thus when his turn came in 2000, delegated unprecedented power to an older man, much more experienced than himself. Cheney seized this opportunity head-on and exploited it to the full.
Richard Dreyfuss has already played Cheney in Oliver Stone’s W (2008). Now Adam McKay – a director once known for comedies such as the rather good Anchorman and the rather less good Talladega Nights and Anchorman 2, turns his focus onto the last US Vice President but one.
We first meet Cheney (Bale) at a low point. As a drunken hell-raiser in the 1960s, he is encouraged out of his decline only by the words of his strong-willed wife Lynne (Amy Adams, excellent). We then cut to the extremely dramatic aftermath of the September 11th attacks of 2001. Whisked away to a “secure location”, the Vice President turns this terrible occurrence into a golden opportunity for him and his ilk. Using the new atmosphere to test the limits of his power to the limit, Cheney, aided and abetted by the conservative cheerleaders of Fox News conspire to make war against Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with the attacks whatsoever.
Gruff and lacking in charisma, the real Cheney, 78 in 2019, has never been an obvious candidate for dramatic portrayal. Despite this and the fact he bears no real physical resemblance to the man himself, Christian Bale aided by prosthetics which increasingly make him resemble a modern-day Chevy Chase as he ages from his twenties to his seventies, is brilliant as the heart-attack prone Cheney. As with Sir Anthony Hopkins in Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995), it has taken a Welsh actor to most perfectly capture a pillar of modern American conservatism.
Steve Carell, who in McKay’s Anchorman played the idiotic weatherman Brick Tamland, (a man who we were told later “served in a senior role in the Bush administration”) is also great here as Bush’s defence secretary and Cheney’s long-time friend and rival, Donald Rumsfeld (he of the “known unknowns).
As in The Big Short which explained the reasons for the last recession in easy language, McKay deploys numerous clever tactics here – a scene performed in iambic pentameter, a false ending, a mystery narrator. Some of these work better than others: a sequence in which Alfred Molina’s waiter offers Bush’s cronies a “menu” of legal options in a restaurant, for example, just seems weird.
But, overall, this is a compelling, well-acted insight into the banality of evil.