Farce is a tough thing to get right even if you follow all the rules. Frankie Go Boom gets very close to being great – the actors are good (and appear to be having a lot of fun) and many of the scenes are very funny. However it ultimately falls foul of the problem that causes many farces to come a cropper – it’s actively nonsensical, which is rather frustrating.
Frankie (Charlie Hunnam) is used to being made a laughing stock by his older brother, Bruce (Chris O’Dowd). For example, Bruce put Frankie’s wedding video on the web, even though it featured Frankie discovering his wife-to-be was cheating on him, before he punches and then vomits on her. Unsurprisingly it was a viral sensation.
However Bruce may have turned a new leaf, as he’s 90 days sober, having kicked his need for drink and drugs. Their parents, who’ve always favoured Bruce, won’t hear a word against their golden boy, even if Frankie isn’t sure he’s ready to trust his brother yet. Frankie’s wariness proves well founded when Bruce videos his younger brother having problem getting an erection during a one-night stand, and then says he’s going to upload it online.
Even Bruce starts to think better of this when he realises Frankie’s sex date, Lassie (Lizzy Caplan),is the daughter of a former TV actor (Chris Noth), who’d happily kill both of them if he discovers his child is the star of a sort-of sex tape. With Frankie getting increasingly furious with his thoughtless, seemingly amoral brother, they set off on a quest to stop the tape going viral and prevent Lassie finding out it even exists.
All that sounds like it could be kind of fun, and indeed a lot of it is. However Frankie Goes Boom seems to think that anything goes in farce, which is only true within the confines of certain rules. For example, coincidence is fine, as is something very simple unravelling into something amazingly over the top. However many farces seem to think that means that you can add in elements that don’t make any logical sense, and the audience will go along with and just accept the silliness. However that’s not really true, as everything around the central silliness has to make sense or the whole thing tips from fun to ridiculous.
And that’s the problem with Frankie Goes Boom, as to get from one step to the next, the film keeps doing things that don’t make much sense. For example, once the sex tape is uploaded, Frankie and Bruce ask for it to be taken down and are told it has to stay online for 72 hours. There’s no logical reason for this and the guys behind the website might as well just say, “We can’t take it down, as setting a random time limit is better for the plot.”
The movie is full of little things like this, which don’t make any sense but the film seems to think the audience won’t mind because the plot is OTT silliness. However in many ways farce has to be even stricter about making sense than normal films do, simply because everything is already so close to the edge of possibility that you need to make sure each development seems like the logical next step, in order to stop the whole thing seeming dumb.
If you can overlook this there is entertainment to be had, as Hunnam and O’Dowd make a great double act, and individual scenes can be very funny. Lizzy Caplan is also very good as the rather confused Lassie.
More problematic is Ron Perlman, playing a trans woman called Phyllis. Whilst largely sympathetic to her, initially the movie can’t resist a bit of ‘Is it a him? Is it a her?’ humour, which seems to be laughing at rather than with trans people. It does improve and Phyllis turns out to be one of the most likeable characters, but you have to get through the standard, ‘Oh my God, a transsexual!’ nonsense first.
Overall Verdict: It’s a real shame they couldn’t have ironed out the bits of the plot that tip Frankie Goes Boom into the realm of making little sense, as the actors are great and individually there are a lot of funny scenes. However it ends up being less than the sum of its parts.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac