Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lousy Title, Lousy Movie: "The Brylcreem Boys" (1998)



No, "The Brylcreem Boys" is not a documentary about men's hair dressing in the 1940's, nor does it feature actual boys as main characters. It is a poorly done slap in the face of all sides involved in World War II Europe.

Hunky Canadian R.A.F. pilot Myles Keogh (Bill Campbell) and his crew are shot down over what they think is France. They are arrested and transported to the local Irish prisoner of war camp.

It seems Ireland is neutral in the war, holding captured British soldiers on one side of the camp, and captured Nazi soldiers on the other side. One of the Nazis is Rudolph (Angus Macfayden), and both Myles and Rudolph fall for local Nicole Kidman clone Mattie (Jean Butler).

Before you ask how Myles and Rudolph could fall for Mattie while locked away in prison, I'll tell you. It seems prison commander O'Brien (Gabriel Byrne, who coproduced this silliness) lets all the prisoners out on day release passes, as long as everyone agrees to return at night. Crazy and nutty, huh?

Myles and Mattie, er, discover each other's Blarney Stone, Rudolph turns into one of the really good nice polite Nazis, and soon a poorly executed prison break is on!

The film makers had such a great opportunity here, it is too bad they squandered it on the sappy Myles/Mattie/Rudy love triangle. An Irish prison containing British and Nazi prisoners? One character calls it a "madhouse," and it should have been! I settled back for some "M*A*S*H"/"Catch-22"-style satire, but by the end of the film I would have been happy with some kicky doofus "Hogan's Heroes"/"Major Dad"-style hi-jinks.

Campbell is a blank. He looks good, but is given nothing to do. "Rudolph the Nice Nazi" Macfayden is a villain, then not, then a villain, then not, then... Butler used to be in "Riverdance" (anybody remember THAT?), so be warned that spontaneous yet flawlessly executed Irish jigging suddenly breaks out midway through the film. The annoying William McNamara plays an annoying American movie star, and Byrne just looks dire. The film ends with the most depressing "what ever happened to...?" coda since "American Graffiti," and I was emotionally empty.

Sure, you have seen better films about Ireland ("The Quiet Man," "Cowboys & Angels," countless others), but when the British escape plan hinges on getting the Irish guards really drunk ('cause ALL Irish are a bunch of swarthy alcoholics!), you realize one half-baked idea does not make a good film. This story is 80 proof positive of that. (*) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: The Brylcreem Boys