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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » London Betty
London Betty
Other // Unrated // February 2, 2010
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeremy Biltz | posted June 24, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:
"If the money's right, I'd sodomize a dead goat." That's a line from indie comedy London Betty, and it sums up very well the general attitude and level of humor of the whole enterprise. The film seems hastily thrown together, relies much too much on lowest common denominator humor, and aside from a couple of pleasant performances doesn't have much going for it.

Betty (Nicole Lewis) wants to be a reporter in America, and is so determined that she leaps at the first job offer she gets and flies from London straight to the small town of Pharisee. Unfortunately, the paper she will be working at is a very low budget operation. The editor Maury (Daniel van Bargen, who viewers might recognize from Super Troopers or Malcolm in the Middle) works out of his home, not because of space issues but because his life was threatened by the vindictive and powerful Mayor Plumb (Dick Boland) and he fears for his safety.

The town of Pharisee, it seems, is overrun with corruption, sin and crime. Three of the main characters, who form a sort of ad hoc family and eventually bring Betty into their fold, are quite unashamedly outlaws. Jess ( Margaret Rose Champagne) is a prostitute and her friends Volgo (Russ Russo) and Billy (writer / director Thomas Edward Seymour) are petty thieves. Volgo and Billy have a strict code: they never break into houses. They only steal from people's front yards and porches. Thus, they maintain their self respect. Almost the minute that Betty arrives in America, Billy steals her pet rabbit Pollack. And then turns it back in to her for a reward. And then steals it again.

But Betty is interested in more important things than her often missing rabbit. She's bent on investigating the very crooked Mayor Plumb, who doesn't shrink from some rabbit rustling himself if it fits his need. And he doesn't like being investigated. As Betty's quest toils on, things get more and more dangerous, and her relationship with Billy (defying all logic, since he stole her rabbit twice and would only help her out later when she agreed to be photographed in her underwear) grows closer, perhaps even venturing into romantic territory.

But enough about the plot. It actually sounds as if it could be the skeleton of a zany fun screwball comedy. It is, however, no such thing. By far the humor is broad, crude, scatological, and clumsily executed. We often get to see grown men in their underwear. (And women, but at least they are somewhat physically fit.) Many bodily noises and foul words are heard. And near the end, a Twinkie is used in a manner not at all recommended by the manufacturer. I won't go into details. One of the mayor's bodyguards is named Karate Stan (Chris Ferry), and he unsurprisingly spends all day every day dressed in a white karate gi. Another gentleman, who appears to be a groundskeeper at Betty's apartment complex, says "Show me your beaver" to her whenever he sees her. This isn't exactly George S. Kaufman material.

The problem isn't with low humor per se. It can be quite humorous when done well, if a little trying in large doses. In London Betty it is very far from done well. The timing is off, the execution is clumsy and the tone far too silly to pull off the gags, many of which require an absolute straight presentation. And the dose is very large. The relentless vulgarity and farce is never relieved by witty banter or visual jokes. The slapstick tires quickly.

This is not to say that London Betty is without merit. Nicole Lewis as Betty is actually quite charming, and does wonders with an underwritten role. Screen veteran Daniel van Bargen also does well with what he has. And the film has genuine heart, and deep down is trying to be very sweet. Very, very deep down. And Clint Howard does a standup job as the narrator. But these elements are not enough to save the film, just enough to make it passable. The sweetness drowns in the crudity. It's obvious that the film is a labor of love, and that everyone involved tried very hard. So it is with a heavy heart that I must recommend that viewers skip this one.

The DVD

Video:
The image is presented in 1.33:1 standard, and has a lot of aliasing and harsh light. It doesn't look very good. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made about the quality of the final product.

Sound:
The audio is Dolby 2 channel, and is passable. On occasion the dialogue can be a bit muffled, but other than that it is fine. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are available. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.

Extras:
There are no extras included on the disc. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quantity or quality of the extras on the final product.

Final Thoughts:
London Betty wants to be a good film, and it has a setup with undeniable comic potential. However, clumsy execution and an overreliance on vulgar and unsophisticated humor make it a clunky and tedious enterprise. Nicole Lewis' performance shines through, with an irrepressible vibrancy that bodes well for her future. But it's not enough to save the film.

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