The trailer for John Landis‘s Burke and Hare, a fact-based black comedy about a pair of early 19th murderers (Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis) who provided cadavers for cash for medical study in Edinburgh, tells you it’s been handsomely designed and shot. But critical reaction has been mixed since opening in the U.K. two days ago. Some felt it was funny (like TimeOut‘s Tom Huddleston) and some didn’t.
Variety‘s Charles Gant wrote on 10.26 that the “creaky comedy about 19th-century corpse retailers Burke and Hare, which reps an attempt by Fragile Films to match the tone and content of such beloved Ealing classics as The Ladykillers, should rattle some funny bones in native Blighty, but may face B.O. graveyards abroad.”
EdinburghGuide.com has posted a summary of reviews, and concludes that the verdict “is a resounding thumbs-down.
“Yes, there are historical inaccuracies — hardly surprising given that the true story of Burke and Hare is of grisly serial murders. And the Scottish accents are iffy. But the main complaint, in a spate of one star and two star reviews, is that Landis’s Burke and Hare is simply not funny enough.
“Where the script stumbles,” says Gant, “is in its absence of any especially funny setpieces or memorable lines. Instead, the scribes seem to think a general tone of wry amusement will suffice, with some slapstick thrown in for good measure.
The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw concurs in his brief, two-star review, saying that B&H “just isn’t as funny as it needs to be.” And Hollywood Reporter critic Ray Bennett dismissed it as “witless drivel.”
Burke and Hare is Landis’s first film since Susan’s Plan (’98).
I can’t avoid stating the obvious about Pegg, which is that his head has inflated into the size and shape of a basketball. He needs to cut down on the lagers and the sausage and invest in a treadmill.