Les Patterson Saves the World
Reviewed by Arno Mikli
Rating: 7.5 Beans
his Aussie production was meant to showcase the talents of Australian entertainer and satirist Barry Humphries.
He had two well-known acts. One involved dressing up in drag and being Dame Edna Everage, a pink-haired oddity with a passion for possums, gladioli and bizarre spectacles. The Dame bit, by the way, comes from a "knighthood" bestowed upon her by a Labour Prime Minister who was a great admirer of her/his/ whatever performances. The other act was to dress up as Dr Sir Leslie Patterson, or Les to anyone around him, a drunken, lecherous and foul-mouthed oaf with a talent for getting high ranking positions.
This film features both these characters, though why the Sir is missing form the title is anyone's guess. If that was the only thing that was missing, this film would not have been a problem. Alas, it was missing several things.
There's no intelligent plotline. Briefly, it tells the story of disgraced ambassador Sir Les Patterson, who, as the result of an grotesquely tasteless incident at the United Nations, gets caught up in the internal affairs of a hostile Middle East country called Abu Niviah.We eventually discover that there is a plot there to create an epidemic called the H.E.L.P virus throughout the United States through the distribution of infected toilet seats. Dame Edna and Sir Les join forces to defeat the conspiracy in a bizarre showdown at a revolving restaurant in New York. The said showdown involved such elements as KGB agents, a renegade starfish and koala and a very disgruntled former head of state armed with a swordfish. At least it wasn't Sydney's Centrepoint tower, though the postcard picture of the New York restaurant that we see shows that the building has an unmistakable resemblance to that structure.
Lots of other less subtle references to real life situations do abound. Abu Niviah was presumably meant to be Libya, particularly when one realises that the head of state ( who, as a result of the incident at the UN, comes into power through a brief but violent coup) is called Colonel Godowni (hardy ha ha). The H.E.L.P virus seems to be a reference to the A.I.D.S virus (now there's a funny subject.....not), though sufferers of H.E.L.P quickly develop a bad case of terminal acne. The "Prime Minister", who sends Patterson off to Abu Niviah at the start of the film, was definitely meant to be then Prime Minister Bob Hawke. This reviewer wondered for a while whether the one-man Aussie embassy personnel for the Abu Niviah area , Neville Thonge (Andrew Clarke), was meant to be a parody of former NSW Premier Neville Wran, but he has dismissed that idea. There are lots of differences and definitely no similarities.
Lots of plot holes exist. At one point we discover that Neville Thonge has pulled a gun on Colonel Godowni but then the scene ends. When we next see Godowni some time later, we see with great surprise that he is still alive, with no indication as to how he survived Thonge's ambush. Just how did those toilet seats get into the US so quickly? Did the Abunians (let's call the natives of that country just that) export the seats or did the Russians (who are involved in this story in a manner that is more unnecessary than entertaining) do it? There's the way that Sir Les'es reception into Abu Niviah is handled. We see him on an airline complete with belly dancers and a beggar. The next scene shows him tied to the ground obviously in deep trouble with the Abunian head of state, Mustafa Toul, who he, um, insulted at the UN. Then we see Patterson being greeted at the airport by Neville Thonge, and being driven away. It is only when we see Thonge desert Patterson after leaving him with Toul that it becomes apparent that we are seeing the events leading up to that moment in the sand. But the end result is such that this reviewer cannot decide whether the insertion of that tied-in-the-sand scene was due to sloppy film editing or simply a bad idea. As it turns out, Colonel Godowni picks that moment to stage his coup and take over, inexplicably leaving Toul to roam the streets rather than kill, imprison or exile him.
Another missing ingredient is good dialogue. It is heavily saturated with awful and often tasteless jokes, double entendres and just plain bad lines. A sampling of the more repeatable ones:
Sir Les on his way to meet Toul: "The sooner that I can shake the Toul by the hand- the sooner I can put it behind me!"
The "Prime Minister": "I wouldn't p**s in his ear if his brain was on fire." (Oh well, at least that's an improvement on the real life quote about no child poverty in 1990).
A member of Edna's Possums for Peace goodwill tour to Abu Niviah: "You mean to say that you only get to sleep with your husbands three times a year??? Not unlike the Australian system actually...."
Another member of Edna's tour: "I just want to be a simple well-adjusted left-wing Sydney lesbian!"
Revolving restaurant staff member, asking why a Miss Herpes, who is the sister of HELP virus creator's Dr Herpes (ha ha ha), changed her name: " I guess she thought that Herpes would not catch on." There are quite a few herpes jokes and puns in this film. Quite a few too many, in fact.
90 minutes or so of this gets to be too much, even for those who like this kind of thing.
The lack of intelligent characters is a third problem. Several well-known Australian actors are wasted in this film. Henry Szeps is the most conspicuous example here. He plays the aforementioned Dr Herpes, as well as his sister Desiree. Pamela Stephenson appears here in an overrated role as Dr Herpes' research assistant Veronique. It's overrated in that we hardly get to see her at all for the first two-thirds of the film, and even then she contributes nothing much except for good looks and bimbo-type lines with a French accent. However, this has not stopped her from getting top billing in the credits. Andrew Clarke's role as the less-than-pure Neville Thonge is just too silly and off-color for words.
All this would go to explain why the film bombed out at the box office. It certainly did not impress this reviewer. The characters that had acquired for Humphries a long-term and successful stage career failed to serve him in a film environment. As seen above, a major reason for this was the script and subject matter. But as the credits say that he was involved in creating the screenplay, he cannot fully escape the blame for the film's faults.
Inasfar as a closing line goes ,this reviewer will close with a Sir Les quote that seems oddly appropriate to reflect the fact that there has been no sequel or second try at promoting Sir Les at the box office, and entirely in line with his character:
"It means that our children, and out children's children, can go to the bathroom without fear!"
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