This is the film that opened last year’s Edinburgh Film Festival – ah, festivals, remember them? – but under the snappier title of Boyz In The Wood, one better suited to a mashup of comedy, horror and thriller served up with a side order of hip hop, all set in the Scottish Highlands.
Yep, hip hop in the Highlands! And Get Duked!, the debut feature from music director Ninian Doff, who also wrote the script, is something of a treat, all the more so for being a surprising one. At the centre are three tearaway teenagers – Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and D J Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) whose name, one that took him an eternity to think up, gives us an idea of what to expect from both him and his music. Perilously close to being expelled from school, they’re sent off the Scottish Highlands on the Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. Into the mix comes a fourth student, Ian (Samuel Bottomley), who is their complete opposite and takes the whole thing very seriously. They are, inevitably, totally out of their depth in the mountains and things go from bad to worse when the local aristocracy start trailing them, armed and fully loaded.
The list of echoes of other films, from Hunt For The Wilderpeople to American Werewolf In London, is as long as your arm. There are nods in the direction of classic Ealing comedies, as well as Monty Python in the graphics and the film happily pays tribute to all of them, including all the tropes you’d expect and enjoy – from the idiotic local police (Kate Dickie and Kevin Guthrie on fine form) to the sinister landowners who turn out to have another side to them. Doff rejoices in cramming the traditional right up against the contemporary: it’s all part of the fun, as well as being one of the themes of the film. That said, it’s probably its least developed aspect and the opportunity for social satire is more side-stepped than missed, although it won’t escape Scottish audiences that the bizarre aristocrats, who seem to have come straight from The League Of Gentlemen, have English accents.
The four young actors at the centre of the action are enormously engaging in their idiocy and work best as a team (as they should, to get their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award certificate). Individually they’re more caricatures than rounded characters, sticking to just one note – especially true of D J Beatroot, who dresses at the outset as if he’s stepped out of a detergent commercial – and little else. But that doesn’t prevent the film from having plenty of laughs, some of which are unexpected, and a second half that charges along like a train.
It’s all a joyously hilarious, if lightweight, experience, with its running gags and offbeat, irreverent tone. The visual humour is strong, the dialogue as sharp as the fork that Duncan keeps brandishing (another running gag) and the whole premise revels in being ridiculous. Get Duked! isn’t a classic comedy in the style of the ones in the back of its mind, but it certainly delivers when it comes to laughs. And we need plenty of those at the moment.
Comedy | Cert: 15 | Amazon Prime, 28 August 2020 | Dir. Ninian Doff | Eddie Izzard, Kate Dickie, Kevin Guthrie, Alice Lowe, Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, Viraj Juneja and Samuel Bottomley.</h