Stephen Fry and the Christmas Chasm of Doom

I’ve always had time for the brave craftsmanship of Mike Leigh. His recent hit Another Year did justice to the tiny complexities of familiarity over time and Life Is Sweet was a masterclass in improv – Jane Horrocks and her marmite raised the bar for acting and we could do with seeing far more of her on the big screen.

Quite why Mike Leigh tried – at this very late stage in the game – to prove his versatility as a director by attempting to create some kind of bum-numbingly horrific Spielbergian Christmasfest is beyond me. I had to fast-forward myself a few millenia and evolve into Homo Mutantis just to… just to deal with it. That ellipsis is the written sound of me breaking down. Still can’t comprehend what the hell happened. Still can’t… understand.

You’ve probably read all the interviews. Mike Leigh had a chat with Warner Brothers and they said he could test-drive secret underground facilities at Leavestown Studios in a top-secret film project that would cost all the money in the world. Why did he ask? Why did they agree? Who knows. Conspiracy theorists agree it was probably something to do with oil and the Templars, it usually is.

Mike Leigh knew what he wanted. Firstly, he wanted to spend all the money in the world. To give the man credit he succeeded in spunking the entire GNP of Gibraltar. Secondly, Leigh admitted to being a fan of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman – whose narrative playfulness is surely the antithesis of Leigh’s naturalism. Leigh wanted to work with an actor starring as himself in the style of Being John Malkovich, and was dead set on casting Stephen Fry, leaving potted shrimps on his doorstep every morning as some kind of coded bargaining tool. Fry said he’d had enough trouble this year, thank you very much, and he wouldn’t be touching this one with a shitty stick, and could Mike Leigh please stop f**king leaving him shrimps.

Simon Pegg read the script (Stephen Fry flying over chasms in kevlar graduation robes brandishing a wand and whip, actors improv their own stunts in exploding multi-million dollar sets with a live orchestra playing until the fireballs melt the strings). Pegg signed up for the project faster than you can say “Reepicheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep”.

Pegg does a fair job of bringing some of Fry’s mannerisms to the table with the aplomb of a Coogan or Brydon while neatly working in his own brand of comedy. Does he look like Stephen Fry? The CGI wasn’t too patchy. It’s hard to tell what someone looks like when they’re suspended flailing and screaming 30 storeys above 40,000 crying children.

What can I say? Yes, Stephen Fry and the Christmas Chasm of Doom has got a genuine chasm in it. And ‘doom’ is the word that comes to mind when I make the mistake of considering this cinematic beast, normally in congress with the word ‘mankind’. But it hasn’t got Stephen Fry in it. And it hasn’t got Dominic Monaghan, Jane Horrocks or Megan Fox in it – they’re listed on the credits, sure, but you won’t see them anywhere, unless they’ve disguised themselves as a crying child.

And it’s got sod all to do with Christmas. Seriously – I watched it twice to check.

Come back, Waterworld. All is forgiven.

by Magda Knight

To vote for Stephen Fry and the Christmas Chasm of Doom click the “Facebook like” button at the top of the page.

Back to Write Christmas

About The Author