I'll Be There Review

In the 1980s, Paul Kerr (Craig Ferguson) was a pop star. Now he’s becalmed in his Welsh mansion and hasn’t made a record in five years. Worse still, he’s just been sectioned after a drunken incident involving driving a motorbike out of a second floor window into his pond. But what he doesn’t know is that he fathered a child and sixteen years later, that child has grown up to be Olivia Edmonds (Charlotte Church). Olivia hasn’t met her father and doesn’t know who he is, but she’s about to find out.

I’ll Be There attracted some attention on its cinema release for the presence of Charlotte Church in her acting debut. The film did no business on the big screen, which isn’t surprising given hindsight. Ms Church’s natural demographic isn’t the one that tends to frequent cinemas. This film is a bland, predictable comedy that isn’t unpleasant to watch but is hardly unmissable. It will probably find its natural home on TV, shorn of its one “fuck” so that it can play before the watershed.

Part of the problem is that Craig Ferguson the director and co-writer miscasts Craig Ferguson the actor in the lead role. Ferguson simply doesn’t have the dangerous, erotic edge to convince in the role and for all his talk of dumping TVs in swimming pools and trashing cars he seems one of the best-behaved pop stars on earth. Church comes off rather better, playing something quite close to her off-screen persona. It’s not as easy to play “yourself” as you might think, and she does a decent job of it. The film calls on her to sing, and we all know she can do that rather well. Jemma Redgrave (as Olivia’s mother), Ralph Brown (as Paul Kerr’s former drummer) and Imelda Staunton (as a psychiatrist) turn in pro performances in fairly limited roles. However, Joss Ackland steals it as Olivia’s grandfather “Evil” Edmonds, a septuagenarian rocker dedicated to growing old disgracefully. Ferguson and Philip McGlade’s script is awkwardly constructed in places and the tone varies somewhat in that the attempts at broader comedy don’t really come off.

Unlike the majority of Warner’s British releases, I’ll Be There is encoded for Region 2 only. This, and the range of subtitles, simply reflects the fact that Warners have the rights to the UK and Ireland only. It has an anamorphic transfer in a ratio of 16:9. Judging by the composition, 1.75:1 would seem to be the correct cinema ratio, not uncommon for a British production aimed primarily at local audiences. The best, most creative cinematography sometimes doesn’t work well on DVD, but a solidly professional job of work like Ian Wilson’s on this film can look stunning. He’s followed the basic comedy lighting principle of keeping everything bright, colourful and sharp and that is what we get here, with fine shadow detail and solid blacks. Some flashback scenes are deliberately grainy and desaturated to bluish monochrome, apart from a few significant red objects. This is pretty much a reference-quality DVD transfer.

There’s only one soundtrack option on this DVD, Dolby Digital 5.1. The soundtrack is mostly front and centre dialogue-led and quite adequate for the purpose. The surrounds are mostly used for Trevor Jones’s score and the odd directional effect. The scenes involving live music (Paul Kerr and Evil Edmonds and their bands) will put your system through its paces, with the subwoofer filling in the bass lines. English subtitles are provided for the hard-of-hearing on the feature only. There are thirty chapter stops, which is plenty for a film of this length.

The main extra is a commentary from Craig Ferguson and co-writer Philip McGlade. This is an entertaining listen, running through the making of the film, even indicating a couple of compromises made to deliver a PG-13 rated film to the American backers. There’s a laddish tone to this commentary which some may find offputting, especially when Ferguson starts leching over his two lead actresses. The other extras are standard issue. The theatrical trailer is 16:9 non-anamorphic and runs 2:09. It’s a “green band” (approved for all audiences) US trailer, which as usual contains a few plot spoilers. There are a selection of deleted or expanded scenes and some outtakes, both 16:9 non-anamorphic and timecoded, running 6:13 and 3:39 respectively. As always with such features, you can see why the scenes were deleted, mostly for pacing reasons. Most of the outtakes feature one or more actors corpsing. There are cast and crew listings, but these are simply text filmographies with no other information present.

I doubt I’ll Be There will be an essential buy for many people out there, especially not at full price, unless they’re fans of either Ferguson or Church. It’s a middling film with middling extras, though picture and sound quality is well up to Warners’ usual standards.

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