Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Jackboots on Whitehall: AKA British Robot Chicken

Jackboots on Whitehall (henceforth known as Jackboots) is a really strange film. The quote on the poster compares it to Team America but both its production method and style of humour owes more to the American show Robot Chicken. Its also a film that's been in production for years, it finally came out in 2010 and didn't exactly make a splash. Wikipedia tells me the film was released in cinema's but I don't remember seeing any trailers or promotional posters. In fact I only saw it because it was recommended as a Netflix algorithm.

Plot Synopsis:
Its World War II and the Nazi's invade, things look bleak for a bit until Churchill can rally the troops with a speech and a last minute rescue thanks to our plucky young hero. And that's about it.

Jackboots as the title makes abundantly clear is part of the WWII film subgenre were Hitler actually invaded Blighty. A bit like Churchill the Hollywood years, similar premise similar lack of impact. Its also a puppet show though most of the puppets appear to be Barbies and action men, which means most of the `supporting cast` have the same dopey grins stuck to their faces regardless of situation or dialogue. It's also a comedy supposedly. The jokes are what expose just how old the film really is because they've mostly disappeared nowadays because our society has realised they're no longer funny*. Take for example a very early joke about a WREN style group set up with the Acronym
 FANY. Which means we have plenty of lines from the Barbies talking about their FANY. It's like Mr Humphrey's and all the others from Are You Being Served are huanting us from the bleak never world of the 1970's.

Translators note: In the UK Fanny is a euphemism for Vagina.

But it gets worse better, there's a very weird running gag about Nazi crossdressers. The first time this joke pops up is shortly after FANY graces us with its presence.  The Hindenburg shows up (always a good idea to use a lazy reference to a tragic event to kick off a wacky comedy) and starts bombing things, during the fire-fight one of the Nazi airmen dresses up as an old woman. At first I thought this joke was going to be built on the old WWII myth that Nazi paratroopers had infiltrated Britain disguised as Nuns and the like, but no. It doesn't build on anything he's just dressed as an old woman. Later on we see Hitler in Buckingham Palace (just like in Churchill the Hollywood Years) dressed as Queen Liz the 1st, now in context the senior Nazi's (you know the usuals, Himmler, Goebbels, Goering etc.)  are having a Fancy Dress party so I thought `ok let's see where you're going with this`. That turned out to be nowhere, its just Hitler in a dress, and then later after the party he's still wearing the dress, so the joke is just Hitler in a dress.

You know what's really sad? this still image is a lot more funny then the animated scene.
And of course we have sexy Nazi SS women. I think I speak for most red blooded males when I say that thinking about extreme racism and genocide gives me both a smile and an erection. Though to be fair this is a really common occurrence in these types of story. I've seen it in videogames, exploitation films and the like though the justification for their existence is that these women -since actually Nazi's pushed a traditional role for women underpinned by the three K's (no not Ku Klux Klan) Kinder(children) Kuche(kitchen) and Kirche(church)-  are that these women represent  the elite. This is makes it something of a meta joke since they don't actually seem to do anything remotely elite in Jackboots. Though credit were credits due I did find them funny since they are basically Barbie dolls in SS uniform.

More like the Phwoarth Reich, right lads?
Oh and before I forget these Nazi chicks are part of a rape joke, yes a rape joke in a film made (well released) in 2010. I guess since she's a Nazi we're supposed to think well (quite literally) `fuck her`. If you're wondering no Jackboots isn't one of those shock comedies, in fact its overall rather tame, the jokes about FANY is an innuendo gag which was done even more explicitly in the dusty old show Are You Being Served? and others.

There's two more running jokes that stick in my mind, ones about Scotland but its just very obvious stereotyping so y'know. The other joke is character related, now in comedy most characters have their own quirks, Chris are plucky farmboy hero -who I haven't mentioned before nor will again-
 character gimmick is that he's tormented by having giant hands, and by giant hands I mean they look slightly larger when the camera focuses on them. The character who stuck out most to me was one Billy Fiske American hero. Billy is another joke that seems to pop up quite a bit in modern British World War II films, he's an obnoxious American action hero whose dialogue is dripping with self awareness. Again like in Churchill the Hollywood Years.

Look at that, he's so self aware he knows I'm writing about him right now.
Billy is a gun toting victory or death red bashing Cold Warrior whose ten years premature. He hates the Commies and thinks the Nazi's are Communists and yes he brings this up every time a fire fights about to break out. This character is a bitter cynical response to the tendency of Hollywood films to paint America as the sole saviours of WWII, and as we all know every light hearted wacky comedy could do with a big serving mean spirited cynicism. The character type is wretched and their existence is petty and childish they need to go away. If you don't like the Americans then don't make them characters in your film.

That's it for the running jokes how about the one offs? Well they mostly fall flat, to take just one example for brevity's sake have you heard the one about the Polish Telephone pole repairman? No, well it goes like this, a Polish telephone repair man climbs up a telephone pole to repair it, he's so focussed on fixing this telephone pole that even though a battle breaks out in the street he's on, he stays up there to finish his job -badum tish-.

Production values were a bit up and down, some set pieces look really well done and others look like a child playing with his toys with his arms just out of shot. Some characters have articulation, others just rock back and forth with the same expression plastered onto their faces. There's a minor character whose a Vicar and I thought he was going to be a baddie  because he's default expression is an evil grin, but no he's just he father of the attractive love interest.

So yeah, that's Jackboots a confusing mess of a film. 

*And there's good odds they never were.

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