DVD Review: Gut-Busting Laughs Are Found ‘In The Loop’

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CHICAGO – The more you love the art of language, the more you’ll love Armando Iannucci’s “In The Loop.” Words have rarely sounded so alive or been arranged so hilariously. In a year when the WGA has honored formulaic scripts like “Avatar,” “Julie & Julia,” and “The Hangover,” Iannucci’s film is a refreshing reminder of just how much fun and exhilarating speech can be.

Though the film has garnered comparisons to landmark political satires like “Dr. Strangelove” and “Catch 22,” it’s far more evocative of great British sitcoms, with its effortlessly verbal characters and pitch-perfect comic timing (Ricky Gervais would find himself at home here). This is far from coincidental, since Iannucci is the creator of indelible British shows such as “I’m Alan Partridge,” with Steve Coogan, and “The Thick Of It,” with Chris Addison and Peter Capaldi (all three actors turn up in “The Loop”).

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 5.0/5.0
DVD Rating: 5.0/5.0

What makes the film so timely is its portrait of miscommunication during a time of international crisis. The film opens as the American president and British Prime Minister plan to embark on a war in the Middle East. Yet neither leader is granted screen time, nor are the specific details of the war discussed. Iannucci instead focuses on the people in middle management positions struggling to wrap their heads around a war they don’t fully understand, or in some cases, support. In that way, it’s sort of like a comic “Gomorrah.” All of the characters in “The Loop” are inextricably entangled within situations beyond their grasp, and forced to explain concepts that baffle them. It’s hard to watch these people, and not think of George W. Bush’s claim that “too many OBGYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.”

In The Loop was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on January 12th, 2010.
In The Loop was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on January 12th, 2010.
Photo credit: MPI Home Video

The madness begins as Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), British Minister of International Development, states in a radio interview that “war is unforeseeable.” This boils the blood of Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the Prime Minister’s foul-mouthed Director of Communications. When Foster tries to backtrack on television by saying, “to walk the valley of peace, sometimes we need to climb the mountain of conflict,” Tucker complains that he sounds like, “a Nazi Julie Andrews.” Foster’s controversial remarks inspire heated debates between the pro- and anti-war factions of both governments.

In the US, Assistant Secretary of Diplomacy Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy) and Lt. General George Miller (James Gandolfini) argue their case against the war and chief warmonger Linton Barwick (David Rasche, sounding like a demonic Peter Graves). As the UN inches toward a vote on the issue, both sides of the political spectrum on both sides of the Atlantic engage in all-out-lunacy: holding false meetings, leaking vital evidence, doctoring documents, and spinning information until the line between fact and fiction becomes hopelessly blurred.

Iannucci’s film is a smashing satire for our politically challenged times, but beyond that, it’s also a magnificent verbal comedy, the joy of which is nearly impossible to describe in a family-friendly review. Hollander has a great irascible monologue where he “thanks” his one-man entourage (Chris Addison) for being late to a meeting. Addison has an equally priceless moment where he attempts to defend an act of infidelity to his girlfriend, labeling it an “anti-war shag.” And Capaldi, whose face could frighten away a velociraptor, is fiercely funny as he spews the most colorful expletives in recent cinematic memory. Do yourself a favor, and see “In The Loop.” It is indisputably the funniest comedy of 2009.

“In The Loop” is presented in its 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and only accompanied by a few extras, including a three-minute making-of featurette. Yet that hardly matters in light of the disc’s splendid half-hour of deleted scenes, which are as hilarious and inspired as anything in the actual film. My favorite bit involves Foster’s explanation that he’s not a member of “Fight Club,” but of “Neutral Club.” First rule of Neutral Club: “let’s hear what the other rules are, and we’ll take an overview.”

‘In The Loop’ is released by MPI Home Video and stars Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Gina McKee, Chris Addison, David Rasche, James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy, Anna Chlumsky and Steve Coogan. It was written by Jesse Armstrong & Simon Blackwell & Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche and directed by Armando Iannucci. It was released on January 12th, 2010. It is not rated.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Matt Fagerholm

By MATT FAGERHOLM
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
matt@hollywoodchicago.com

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