THE OTHER HALF

5 out of 10

Release Date: 15th May 2006 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Richard Nockles & Marlowe Fawcett

Cast: Danny Dyer, Gillian Kearney, Jonathan Broke, Mark Lynch and Vinnie Jones

Writer:  Richard Nockles & Marlowe Fawcett

Trailer: THE OTHER HALF

THE OTHER HALF by Joe Pesci II aka Matt Usher

Unknown-4What could be a more topical film to review than The Other Half? True, it’s from 2005, but it’s a vehicle for Danny Dyer (THE HOOLIGAN FACTORY) (plastered across the tabloid front pages yesterday for an alleged indiscretion) and it’s about football (and there’s a World Cup tournament going on right now, though our England team have already bid their inevitably early farewell).

Seeing as it involves Danny Dyer and football, and has a (spectacularly awful) cameo from Vinnie Jones (STRENGTH AND HONOUR(as a ghostly / imaginary football manager of the mind) the designers of the DVD cover have weaved their usual magic. It’s black and white, with red for the England flag backdrop, the title and the blurb: ‘Just How Far Would One Man Go To Watch England Play?’ (Insert ‘not very far after watching them this week joke’ here.) The cover shows Dyer moodily mooching monochromatically, Jones hovering cluelessly / threateningly behind him. So they’ve clearly aimed this at the bizarrely affluent hooligan / gangster movie fanbase, which is quite funny really as it’s a good old-fashioned Hugh Grant-style romantic comedy.

Our Danny plays a football fan who has got tickets for England football matches in the big European tournament of 2004 in Portugal (one which England fans of the day seemed to believe was one that they might win). But then he gets married and he knows that he won’t be allowed to go so he organises a honeymoon in Portugal during football week. Will he get to the games? Will his marriage survive? Will it all be worth it? Well, it’s a romantic comedy so I think we know the answers already.

There are lots of problems.

Firstly Dyer’s character is even more of an idiot than usual. I can well understand him not telling his betrothed about the tickets, but we don’t really get any sense that she would disapprove. And the lengths he eventually does go to beggar belief, which means any sympathy we have for him is jettisoned, which makes the inevitable reconciliation a bit too easy.

And then there are the commentators. If you’ve seen that Rafe Spall sitcom where imaginary sport commentators are commenting on his every move then you know what they’re attempting here. Unfortunately they get it incredibly wrong. Every now and again two commentators turn up to commentate on the action, as if Dyer’s quest was some spectator sport. Although the two actors are very convincing as bad football commentators the film-makers think they’re side-splittingly funny. They are not. But for large chunks of the film we follow these two as they drive around Portugal being unfunny (I liked the bit with the onion though). Had they just popped up to deliver the occasional ‘goal!’ or ‘he didn’t see that coming!’ they might have worked. Instead they hijack the film to an embarrassingly bad extent.

And then there’s Mrs Dyer, played by Gillian Kearney (BROOKSIDE). She’s absolutely perfect except for one vital thing. For reasons unknown the film-makers decided that Danny had to marry an American. I guess there was meant to be some sort of culture clash thing but that peters out. Also petering out regularly is Kearney’s accent. She sounds Irish more often than American and Liverpudlian more often than Irish. Couldn’t they have just let her be Irish? It’s a shame because Kearney and Dyer make an excellent screen couple and it’s a problem that just needn’t have arisen in the first place. (Maybe Dyer should have been American?)

Fortunately there’s a lot that does work. Portugal is filmed beautifully, and the two leads are played with a lot of charm. The location filming involving England fans is particularly effective, and the absence of any actual football is cleverly masked. Although the film goes through the motions there’s a lot of incidental wit and inventiveness, and there are a few animated bits which presumably cover the bits the budget didn’t stretch to. And there is an almost frightening plausibility to Dyer’s character’s dumbness which I’m sure many football widows would recognise.

 The Other Half is probably an accurate reflection of the England Footballery Team: inconsistent, occasionally awful, sometimes bland yet redeemed by some good performances and it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

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