Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story Michael Winterbottom

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story Michael Winterbottom
Tristram Shandy's reputation is, sad to say, a tad inflated. Much has been made of the film's inventiveness in "adapting" the "un-filmable" 18th century Laurence Sterne novel, which blends the author's non-tale with that of a partly improvised "behind the scenes" narrative.

This naturally leads to comic celebrity Steve Coogan having many self-obsessed star moments while trading passive-aggressive remarks with the insecure (and second-billed) Rob Brydon. I can't vouch for its gloss on the book but I can note the level of comedy, which has its moments but gets bogged down too often in the very self-regard it sets out to satirise.

Coogan has a girlfriend and a baby, a serious attraction to PA Naomie Harris and a problem with the giant womb they've constructed for his birth but, except for a few choice asides, it doesn't say anything that we haven't already heard from a million "making of" docs or withering mockumentaries.

Though Coogan and Brydon never let down their guards for a moment in their seamless performances (and the rest of the cast follows suit with ironclad turns), a clubby film colony atmosphere descends upon the film and makes it as annoying as it is fitfully amusing.

Its take on moviemaking is less satiric than narcissistic, with no new tale to tell, and while the intentional self-absorption is a riot, the unconscious stuff is irritating. The whole thing recalls Tony Richardson's Tom Jones in its self-conscious attempts to "punch up" a classic, and though Shandy's a cut above that I predict that it will age just as gracelessly as the long-forgotten Oscar winner. Trainspotters: note the cameos by Gillian Anderson and Stephen Fry. (Alliance Atlantis)