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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Robbie Coltrane: Incredible Britain
Robbie Coltrane: Incredible Britain
Acorn Media // Unrated // July 15, 2008
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted July 8, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
The Movie:
My wife and I decided last year to take our kids on the long drive south from Portland to Los Angeles without "doing" I5. We had a lovely trip on backroads, largely Highways 1 and 101 near the coast that introduced us to a beautiful panoply of little villages and stunning ocean vistas. The extremely personable Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid of the Harry Potter franchise) does something similar in this absolutely captivating three part British television outing that is filled with lovably eccentric folk from a beautiful array of historic villages on the "B" roads, as Coltrane terms them, from London north to his hometown of Glasgow, Scotland.

Coltrane is such an affable and self-deprecating soul that he could make reciting the phone book an entertainment event. Puttering along in a gorgeous 1957 red Jaguar convertible, Coltrane takes us to locales both well known and little heard of. Even in the better known locations, such as Stratford-Upon-Avon, little to no attention is paid to their best known former denizens (like, say, that writer guy named Shakespeare), but instead is focused on quirky events like drag racing. In fact it's part of the great fun of this series watching Coltrane get to indulge in a laundry list of fantasy activities, like flipping a wheelie in a several ton firetruck. But Coltrane's exceptional humor shines through so many moments in this exceptional piece, from his quick visit through the world's largest shoe museum (where he avers staying longer lest anyone think him "peculiar"), to opening a gigantic door on the world's largest silo ("Get in there and do something interesting, fatty," he jokes, mimicking his director). One of the perhaps inadvertantly funnier moments is when Coltrane visits a bed and breakfast run by a convent and the Mother Superior tells one of the other sisters that Coltrane has promised to send them a DVD copy of Nuns on the Run.

Incredible Britain is resplendent with one beautiful aerial shot after another of the verdant English (and Scottish) countryside, following Coltrane's nifty speedster as it cuts a labyrinthine path to and fro across Britain (at one point Coltrane admits he's traveled over 300 miles and yet is only 70 miles from his starting point, London). Coltrane interacts with the locals beautifully at all his stops, and it's interesting to see that there's little if any "starstruck" fumfering from these "ordinary folk" as they interact with the internationally famous stage and screen star. That is no doubt due not just to Coltrane's unglamorous appearance, but to his very real, unaffected demeanor which is always on glorious display. Watching him comfort some locals in Scotland as a long-hated eyesore of four nuclear towers comes crashing down after being imploded is one of the more touching moments of the series and shows what a mensch, to borrow a cross-cultural term, Coltrane is. There's also some fun to be had in Yorkshire's version of the Space Needle, where Coltrane has to confront his fear of heights, and also at a castle thought to be haunted, where Coltrane is joined by several ghost hunters armed with an array of high-tech gadgets meant to get the spectral goods on tape. Everywhere Coltrane visits he draws the viewer in with cutting asides delivered directly to the camera which helps to make us armchair travelers feel very much a part of the journey.

This really isn't a travelogue in the traditional sense, but it's that very extraordinariness that makes Incredible Britain such a joy to watch. I hope Coltrane visits other countries soon. I have a great Highway 1 itinerary I can share with him anytime he wants.

The DVD

Video:
Incredible Britain is a great deal of fun to watch in a very nice enhanced 1.78:1 presentation. Colors and sharpness are both excellent, though there is fairly frequent aliasing on such objects as leaves and grillework.

Sound:
The standard stereo soundtrack is just fine, with Coltrane's mellifluous voice front and center at all times.

Extras:
Not much here, though an interactive map with facts about various territories is fun. There's also a text biography of Coltrane.

Final Thoughts:
Incredible Britain was one of the nicer surprises of my recent viewing experiences. Coltrane makes an unbeatable host and tourguide, and the unfailingly interesting people and places he visits make this one journey you'll definitely not regret taking. Highly recommended.

____________________________________________
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

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