Angus, Thongs & Perfect Snogging

August 3, 2008

OUT: NOW

For a change, it’s not the lack of any original tween stories that has driven Louise Rennison’s book to the screen- it’s necessity. A quick-witted amalgamation of Bridget Jones and Adrian Mole via Byker Grove on brain pills, 14-year-old literary heroine Georgia Nicholson is an inspired comic creation that every young person should get to know and learn from, let alone the female of the species. Bend It Like Beckham’s self-righteous klutz of a director Gurinder Chadha is in the chair bringing the noisy, bitchy world of Angus, Thongs… to your ears and eyes.  

The premise is a traditionally threadbare romance, combining the plots of the first two books in Rennison’s lengthy series. Georgia (Georgia Groome) lets us into her confused teenage mind, revealing cringeworthy thoughts and secrets like some kind of junior Peep Show. Not quite popular but not really a geek, Georgia is one of those in-betweeners with probably too much intelligence for her years. It’s this savvy wit that makes the books so engaging, entertaining, fast and very funny.

Yet here we find ourselves in a horrific parallel universe, where the film adaptation is boring, tacky, slow and very unfunny. How did this happen? A favourite novel can’t be ruined for me by its screen sister, nor is it worthwhile to say which is better– they’re entirely different mediums and the pleasure taken from each is just as different. Plot isn’t even that crucial- most people can still enjoy the Lord of the Rings trilogy despite some laughable detractions from Tolkien’s narrative (the ancient Elf treaty in Towers anyone?). What’s really important is capturing the flavour of the source material, creating a new work in its own right as a tribute to its kin. In recent years the likes of Sin City, A Scanner Darkly and even choice Harry Potter moments have succeeded in the task, but Angus fails spectacularly.

As the weak title change from ‘full-frontal’ to ‘perfect’ suggests, the target audience is somewhat younger than those who first enjoyed the paper incarnation. The tone is considerably cleaner, almost every sharp observation and truism is dumbed down and freshened up for the girls starting secondary school in September. Director Chadha pores over every word and action with an off-technicolor visual style, acheiving nothing but to highlight the mediocrity of the script. And everyone is incredibly, relentlessly posh… which I can’t fault on filmic grounds, it’s just very annoying.

Georgia Groome (rising star of London To Brighton from Nottingham’s Television Workshop) does a fine job of carrying the film through its dreary patches, and works hard with dialogue that would make Davina McCall cringe. The supporting cast vary drastically in quality, and with Alan Davies (Jonathan Creek)criminally wasted as the embarassing dad its a relief that Groome has enough charm and watchability to go around. Her versatility is a real gift, and she’s certainly one to watch.

With Rennison’s dry style utterly dispensed with, the plot never manages to stand up. By the conclusion we’ve reached a wobbly crawl, but the added morals and sentimentality are less implied than injected into our eyes, where in the book it’s a subtle comment or nothing at all.

It’s no surprise that a Dallas movie project was in the pipeline for Chadha before her pregnancy briefly halted her ‘career’. As with Beckham, her view of how humans behave and interact in the real world is inexplicably warped into Hollyoaks for infants. Is she determined to blight the British TV and film industry’s reputation for mature, intelligent, honest and courageous children’s fare? Hasn’t High School Muiscal ruined our youngsters enough?  There are odd delights for the undemanding, and no doubt Angus will gather a huge fanbase and incur a sequel, but this is simply another case of patronising a young audience that need and deserve better than this.       

THE CRUNCH

1.5 / 5  girl points for style

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