The Calcium Kid Review

Documentary filmmaker Sebastian Gore-Brown (Mark Heap) is shooting a documentary. Pete Wright (Tamer Hassan), the “bad boy” of British boxing, has finally got his chance to fight José Mendez (Michael Peña) in “The Melee on the Tele” for the middleweight championship of the world. But in a sparring match with Jimmy Connelly (Orlando Bloom), a part-time boxer who works as a milkman, Wright accidentally breaks his hand. But Wright’s manager Herbie Bush (Omid Djalili) takes the opportunity and replaces Wright on the bill with Jimmy – now nicknamed “The Calcium Kid”…

Orlando Bloom’s profile is very high at the moment, due to his roles as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings (in which he certainly made an impression) and in Pirates of the Caribbean (in which he was bland and you tended to forget about him when he was off screen). That is, I suspect, the major reason why The Calcium Kid had a cinema release in early 2004. It didn’t do very well on the big screen and may seem more at home on a smaller one. It’s an amiable enough comedy if you’re not too demanding, but it simply isn’t especially funny. It’s a frequent comment about British films, but you think the script ought to have had a few more drafts before it went into production. The documentary-style camerawork is only effective in fits and starts – there are handheld shots and jump cuts galore but many scenes are none-too-convincingly shot in multiple set-ups. Also, I suspect such a documentary would be shot on video nowadays – the film has an inappropriate gloss to it from being filmed in 35mm. All this would be quibbling if the film were genuinely funny, but unfortunately it isn’t. You can sense the desperation early on when the film tries to get laughs out of Herbie Bush misunderstanding the words “pugilism” and “pros”. There are deafness jokes, walking stereotypes such as David Kelly’s drunken Irish boxing trainer, one-note performances in one-note roles like Ronni Ancona’s as Jimmy’s massage-therapist mother. Meanwhile, Billie Piper has nothing much to do except smile and let Jimmy put his hands on her breasts in one scene. Some of the supporting cast – best mate Stan, a female stalker Jimmy attracts - look and act as if they’ve wandered out of a Mike Leigh movie, though you’d expect rather more insight if he were directing. Frank Bruno and Chris Eubank make brief appearances as themselves.

In the leading roles, Omid Djalili’s wide-boy shtick gets wearing very fast. As for Bloom, he at least has screen presence and a boy-next-door handsomeness and charm, and it’s a credit to him that he does keep you watching past the point of no return. There’s no doubt he could do better than this, and hopefully will in the future, but he’s the best reason to watch this. As his fanclub is largely, I suspect, made up of younger teenage girls, the 15 certificate (due to considerable swearing), might well have excluded most of them in a cinema, so this DVD might well give them their chance to see this film. Anyone else should proceed with caution. The Calcium Kid is no great shakes, but I have seen far worse.

Universal’s DVD is encoded for Region 2 only. It has an anamorphic transfer in the ratio of 1.85:1, which would seem to be correct. The colours are bright, in fact almost overripe in places. There is some light grain throughout, though I suspect that’s intentional. I spotted some very minor artefacting, but nothing obtrusive.

The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital 5.1. Although much of the film is dialogue-led, the surrounds do get something of a workout, mostly from the songs and music score. There are also quite a few directional effects, notably the crowd noise in the boxing arena towards the end of the film. The subwoofer doesn’t get a lot to do other than to fill in the bottom end of the music score.

There are sixteen chapter stops. Subtitles are provided for the hard-of-hearing for both the feature and the extras. This DVD has a feature I don’t think I’ve seen before: as soon as the feature finishes, it starts all over again. Possibly useful if you fall asleep…

However, those extras aren’t very much to write home about. A noticeable omission is the trailer. Instead we get 9:24 of deleted scenes and 4:58 of out-takes. These are both presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and have timecodes running in the bottom black bar. Needless to say, there is a lot of artefacting here. The deleted scenes are: “The Herby [sic] Bush Welcome” (0:37), “Herby [sic again] ‘The Shark’” (0:41), “Unique Training Style A: The Alley” (0:29), “Unique Training Style B: At Altitude” (0:29), “Mother’s Love” (1:08), “In the Locker Room” (1:16), “The Hospital Visit” (2:53), “The National Front” (1:12), “Chris Eubank Pays a Visit” (0:37). Each of these has to be selected from the menu; there’s no “Play All” function. As with most deleted scenes, you can see why they were cut in the first place. The out-takes are strictly single-watch material, none of it very funny. Finally, there’s a trailer for Billy Elliot – The Musical, due to open on the London stage in March 2005. It runs 1:38 and mostly consists of young boys auditioning for the lead role. Quite what this is doing here I don’t know, still less why there’s no trailer for The Calcium Kid itself.

The Calcium Kid is a very middling British comedy that should have had a much sharper script. Orlando Bloom is the major reason why it’s at all watchable, so this is recommended to his fans, but it’s not likely to have much appeal to anyone else.

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