‘The Great Unwashed’ held together by cast, not much else

I want to enjoy a comedy as much as the next person does, but I think that there has to be a limit. “The Great Unwashed” reaches very, very close to that limit. The premise has a lot of potential: a young man is forced to flee London after witnessing a mob murder and live with his squatter brother and his hippie wife in the woods. It’s a great start, and there’s a lot to be done with it, and I think that’s why so much of it felt largely disappointing, even with the strengths hat it has.

Let’s start with the bad. I think the most obvious thing here is the humor, which is that British non-sequitur that popularized Monty Python, combined with the less nuanced humor of modern day internet media, such as what you would find on YouTube. And while either of these would be fine by themselves, it’s not a very good mix. This is further exacerbated by the script. In a Q&A with the director and producer after the film, they admitted that the script had not been completed by the time they had started filming, and that they had at least an hour of material they had cut from the final version. Unfortunately, these are things you can feel. Much of the plot seems as wandering as the main character, listless and bored almost, half story and half collection of skits. None of the characters have any sort of arc, really, and there is virtually no development or depth to these characters, which is a shame because the ensemble does such a good job portraying them. It’s one of those movies that you leave and you can’t quite explain what happened- not because it was complex or inventive, but rather because it made just so little sense.

But that is not to say the film was without merit. Again, the film boasts a strong ensemble with clear improvisational skills and excellent comedic timing. In fact, it was not until a few days after the screening that the sheer charisma of the cast wore off and I allowed myself to be disappointed in the film. The cast is moreover supported by very professional sound, a fun, if not always fitting musical score, and the occasional animation, which was almost charming (but not quite) in such a way as to really well frame the rest of the film. However, it is the technical shots that really deserve credit, as they make wonderful use of their surroundings and of the interesting actors. The shots take advantages of the strengths of the film and emphasize it, which is a truly prudent move on the director’s part.

Overall, the film isn’t bad, but it’s also not good. It’s the fun, mindless sort of film that’s great to watch with your friends at one in the morning after a shake and some fries. But as my first film of the Austin Film Festival? “The Great Unwashed” should hit the showers.