Clarkson: The Good The Bad The Ugly Review
Is it that time of the year again...checks calendar...hmmm, so it is. That time of the year when wives and kids scratch their heads at the thought of what to buy their husband/father and, inspiration failing them, plumb for socks, a miniature whiskey, a Haynes manual for a car they've never and will never own and the latest Jeremy Clarkson DVD. Disappointment will doubtless reign on Christmas Day as dads peruse the miniature whiskey and wonder why they were considered undeserving of a 70cl-bottle. As they doze off to the sound of the Queen on television and of turkey and stuffing settling in their stomach, they might well think of Jeremy Clarkson and of the impending Top Gear Christmas special, wherein Clarkson and co fire plum puddings at a recent Nissan, they attempt to transport a Christmas tree on the roof of a Pagani Zonda and attempt to pull a Land Rover across a frozen lake with the aid of six reindeer.
Top Gear - and, by extension, this release - has often been accused of being car pornography. But it isn't, not unless you count Ben Dover as pornography, which, again, it isn't. And this is an exemplar release to prove the point, with Clarkson heading to America to pit some of Europe's finest cars against the best from the US in the hope of deciding who are the finer car-makers. Except that Clarkson avoids supercars, much like Ben Dover hasn't ever laid his hands on a supermodel, with one choosing to bring a BMW Z4 as the other fits snugly between the legs of a supermarket checkout girl from Bromley. Clarkson even offers us the sight of his jowly cheeks wobbling in the wind above the roof of a convertible, much like what remains consistent in the work of Ben Dover, being the bounce of the randy ol' devil's milky-white arse. And I'm not quite sure, where James May might fit into a porn movie. Unless he's the spiritual brother to a man I once saw in a Dutch piss-movie who was content to toy with some model trains as two couples entertained each other on a nearby sofa.
As for this actual feature, it will be familiar to anyone who's wandered upon Top Gear of late and witnessed Clarkson and co mucking about in the air, on the water and on the road. Anywhere, in fact, outside of the studio, where, their hands in their pockets, they look like the blokes you find at motor shows whose skins gets ever more clammy the closer they get to expensive sports cars and even more expensive women. And so Jeremy Clarkson arrives on American soil in search of a car, just the one would do, that compares favourably to a selection of European motors. Not even the very best motors as Clarkson's left the Paganis, Lamborghinis and Ferraris at home in favour of a BMW Z4, an Ariel Atom, a Range Rover and a Lotus Exige.
So decent cars but hardly outstanding ones, whilst, on the other side, he's picked out a Ford GT40, a Ford Mustang, a Dodge Viper, a 200mph Corvette Z06, the Cadillac XLRV and, going up against the Range Rover on a climb up a mountain, a Hummer and a Cadillac Escalade. And, in keeping with the typical stunts pulled on Top Gear, he races a Ford Mustang against an actual mustang horse. Now, the outcome of all of these races won't exactly be surprising. Clarkson, even in his opening minutes, talks about his dislike of America, Americans and, more pertinently, American cars so when he's finally let loose on some hardware, he's less than flattering about it. A Toyota Prius, which draws Clarkson's ire for claiming to be environmentally friendly, is shot at by a Texan with a substantial arsenal of weaponry. Clarkson made much of his dislike of the Dodge Ram on Top Gear and largely repeats the same points here but his efforts to disparage a Lincoln by filling it with water are not so effective. It's slightly amusing - note that's not the same as being funny - but there's less the feeling of these gags being well-planned or the pick of a substantial bunch and more just things the crew filmed and for the reason of there being a shortage of anything better, were included.
However, it's disappointing that the more positive aspects of the Dodge Viper SRT 10 and the Ford GT40 aren't better explained. As anyone who's driven the former will testify, there's a certain thrill to driving a machine that's as well engineered as a truck engine tied to a roller-skate might be, which Jeremy Clarkson fails to fully explain. And that might be the problem with these Clarkson DVDs. The Stig, who's along for the ride, doesn't exactly say much and Clarkson, who's often left watching from the stands, musters up all the enthusiasm of one who's stood at a distance.
What's particularly galling in this is Clarkson's dismissing of a Harley-Davidson. He footers about on it for a couple of minutes before just blowing it up but with his slightly-too-short jeans and loafers, Clarkson cuts an unconvincing figure on a motorbike. Actually, he looks about as uncomfortable on the bike as might the Queen where she sat on a toilet being dragged past Parliament by an elephant, with Clarkson sitting atop the Harley in the manner of one who's terrified about the absence of stabilising wheels. And perhaps because of that, his not really being much of a racing driver or his not giving due credit to a drive as life-affirming as the Viper, this is a fair but very ordinary release from Jeremy Clarkson. Thousands of dads might well be nodding their heads in agreement over this Christmas break.
It looks like an episode of Top Gear. Of course, it looks like an episode of Top Gear, down to the appearances of The Stig and the closely-shot footage of the cars swishing by the camera. However, The Good The Bad And The Ugly does look better than last year's Heaven And Hell, though much of that probably has to do with this being filmed in California rather than a rainy test track somewhere in England, most likely in the Midlands. And so, the video looks slightly sharper with richer colours and more detail in the image, being noticeably better than the Top Gear broadcasts on digital television. It does, however, fall some way short of what one might expect of a DVD release.
As for the audio track, there are, like last year's Heaven And Hell, two options. The first of these is the default stereo track, which is fine but unexciting, whilst the alternate soundtrack is a remix of the audio track that, in place of the incidental music, offers a slightly louder sound from the cars. Actually, that's what it promises but it doesn't appear to have been mixed like that, leaving the noise of the engines no louder but Clarkson's voice comparatively booming.
There are no extras on this release.