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While it could have done more with its wacky premise, Mindhorn is still an enjoyably daft comedy that keeps the laughs coming.
Washed up has-been actor Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) is best known for playing the lead role in the 1980s TV series “Mindhorn” – a detective with a cybernetic eye that helps him see detect the truth. With his career in the gutter, Thorncroft is desperate for any opportunity to get back in the public’s eye. When a wanted criminal (Russell Tovey) who believes Mindhorn is real says he will only speak with him, Thorncroft must work with the police to help catch him – and revisit his glory days in the process.
A balding, overweight, self-obsessed asshole, Thorncroft is easy to laugh at and Barratt makes it even easier. His performance finds the right balance of pathetic and obnoxious. That way, it’s funny when Thorncroft falls on his ass, but you also want to see him get back up and pull himself together.
’80s cheese is ripe for spoofing and one of Mindhorn‘s weaknesses is that it focuses so much on the present. All of the clips the movie shows from the original “Mindhorn” show are comedy gold and there’s definitely not enough of them. Not that the stuff in present isn’t funny, or that it doesn’t end up in some truly ridiculous places, but the lack of “Mindhorn” clips feels like wasted potential. Ditto for the show’s successful spin-off, “Windjammer” – starring Peter Eastman (Steve Coogan).
Without giving any of the comedic highlights away, Mindhorn is a pretty fun ride. It’s stupid, full of colorful characters and it makes ample use of a few cameos by notable British actors playing themselves, such as Kenneth Branagh and Simon Callow. Clive (Simon Farnaby), Thorncroft’s old stunt double, gets a lot of laughs in particular.
There are a few plot oddities and the narrative doesn’t quite come together at parts. The romance between Patricia Deville (Essie Davis) and Thorncroft never quite adds up and the fact that the movie ends up playing it pretty straight feels like a cheat. In addition, the ending is just a little too neat and happy considering Thorncroft doesn’t actually make amends for a lot of the awful stuff he has done.
These are minor issues and with the movie clocking in at just under 90 minutes, they’re not nearly enough to spoil the fun. It’s a silly, quirky comedy that could have used a few more throwbacks to the bygone era of cheesiness that is the ’80s, but overall, it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for a laugh.
P.S. Make sure to stick around after the credits.