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Sunday, July 23, 2017

'The Hippopotamus' VOD/BD/DVD: Adaptation of Witty Stephen Fry Mystery-Comedy Channeling Oscar Wilde

Sony Home Entertainment chooses wisely regarding releasing the 2017 Lightyear Entertainment British mystery-comedy "The Hippopotamus" on VOD/Blu-ray/DVD on this side of the pond on August 1, 2017. The gorgeous cinematography that extends beyond a hilariously bad "Julius Caesar" featuring  ripped gladiators in little more than gold lame Speedos to the spectacular interiors and exteriors of the massive country home where most of the action occurs makes purchasing this one in Blu-ray a no-brainer.

The "wait, there's more" aspect of the Blu-ray release is an exclusive question and answer session that features star Roger Allam. director John Jencks, and author/actor Stephen Fry who wrote the novel of the same name on which "Hippopotamus" is based. This event is from the Hay Festival in Wales.

The following YouTube clip of the "Hippopotamus" trailer provides an excellent sense of the wit and the wisdom of the film.

Fry being an accomplished comedian and having played legendary wry wit Oscar Wilde in the film "Wilde" makes the tone of "Hippo" no surprise. The voice-over narration and much of the external dialogue of central character has-been poet/former disgraced theater critic/current freelance investigative reporter Ted Wallace (Roger Allam of "Endeavour" and "The Book Thief") rivals the humor of Wilde and comes just as fast and furious.

Ted's excellent adventure begins with his spouting verbal diarrhea about his past glory as a famed poet leading to producing written excrement. He then consumes his standard massive quantity of liquid courage in preparation for attending the aforementioned absurd theater.

Ted making a more memorable scene from the audience than the cast produces on the stage leads to unemployment. That threat to the lifestyle to which Wallace has become accustomed makes him susceptible to accepting an offer that he cannot refuse. Jane Swann, who is the daughter of an "it ended badly" ex of Wallace, offers him what both agree is a ridiculously large amount of money to verify an apparent miracle.

The assignment revolves around Jane visiting the aforementioned country estate during a final stage of leukemia. Her walking out the front door, rather than being carried out the kitchen entrance as expected prompts her to hire Wallace to verify whether miracles are true and if they can happen to those who even are not young at heart. The particular expertise of Wallace is that is he is the adored godfather of 16 year-old aspiring poet David, who is the son of lord of the manor Michael Logan (dreamy Matthew Modine), who is the sister of the aforementioned ex of Wallace.

David's older brother Simon meeting Wallace on his arrival provides Wallace a good chance to show off his aforementioned wit by rhyming Simon with hymen in response to a request to create a limerick on the spot. A gleeful beaming David enthusiastically greeting the new arrival early establishes him as the cocker spaniel puppy-like persona of upper-class British boys whose emotional age never seems to exceed 8.

The arrival of other stereotypical upper-class weekend guests sets the stage for "Hippo" to become a hybrid between a traditional British farce and the 1989 indie American comedy "Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills."

Wallace particularly shines when disquieting the lady of the house by discussing the masturbatory habits of her younger son. For his part, David is the center of a separate shocking incident involving the penis for which he is not severely penalized.

David further entertains regarding stating his technique for "getting some." A related scene is reminiscent of a similar scene in the novel and the film "The World According to Garp" that involves the oh-so-critical  "no teeth" rule.

The climax of "Hippo" is a variation of the drawing room confession that is crucial to traditional British murder mysteries. Wallace divulges the true nature of the "miracles" to the assembled group in the dining room of the manor. Although Wallace provides a "smoking gun," it is nice that there is no villain. Adding a touch of "Equus" is aptly entertaining in this segment that effectively triggers a nightmare.

The film then proceeds to an unhappy ending before giving an awesome young couple potential for happily ever after. For his part, Wallace experiences a personal "miracle" regarding his weekend in the country.

The moral for Hollywood is that it still is possible to make a good commercially viable cleverly written film with "real" characters that has good sexual (but not crude) humor. It seems that American filmmakers whose efforts to do the same fail need a weekend in the English countryside.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Hippo" is strongly encouraged to email me; you alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.