Stella Street

Stella StreetSynopsis: A comedy about celebrity lifestyles gone mad!

Jury Award winners for best actor of the U.S., Comedy Arts Festival 2004, Phil Cornwell and John Sessions play multiple roles as a group of celebrities who, tired of the pressures of the life in the spotlight, all move to a street in suburban south London.

One by one the various superstars – Michael, Jack, Al, Mick, Keith, David, Joe and briefly, Dustin – move to Stella Street to escape their Hollywood A-List lives and settle down to domestic bliss.

Things start to go wrong when the stars are encouraged to entrust their wealth to a titled financial advisor. Faced with financial ruin, they discover that the perks of the celebrity lifestyles that they left behind weren’t that bad after all.

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Stella Street 6.75

eyelights: Michael Caine. Jack Nicholson. David Bowie. the concept.
eyesores: Al Pacino. Keith Richards. Dustin Hoffman. the execution.

I had never heard of ‘Stella Street’ when I picked up this DVD; it was one of the many choice items being liquidated by Blockbuster in its clearance centre, well before they closed their doors.

It has a promising premise: a bunch of celebrities go hiding out in a small British town and end up attracting the wrong kind of attention whilst there.

I liked the idea of a parody of known film and rock stars, so I grabbed it. The fact that it was part of a 10 for 20$ (or was it 15$) deal kind of helped, of course.

I’ve since discovered that ‘Stella Street’ was originally a television programme on BBC 2 and it aired in 10-15 minute segments for four seasons from 1997 to 2001. Three years later, this film version came out.

I totally dig the central conceit of these celebrities mingling on Stella street after “Michael Caine” rings up “Jack Nicholson” and coaxes him to move there – after which word gets out and a bevy of others start to show up.

Michael Caine steers the proceedings, and it’s a fitting role. Phil Cornwell does a splendid interpretation of the man, giving him the presence required to host this “documentary”. He also takes a commanding role with his celebrity friends.

Phil Cornwell also does a terrific job of doing Jack Nicholson, affecting a near-perfect accent and demeanour. I laughed out loud many times just hearing him say mundane but absurd things in his skin. My favourite: Jack thanking the milk man for his milk.

Don’t ask.

Unfortunately, the film is marred by a series of poor executions by Phil Sessions. Not only were some of his impersonations off, some of them were waaaaaay off: his Al Pacino was so bad, it was hard to remember who he was playing; he didn’t even get the voice right.

Frankly, with the number of celebrities that were muffed, it was very difficult to immerse one’s self in the picture. If one is supposed to buy into the absurd concept, at the very least we should be given an easy way in. The characters, if anything, were a hindrance.

All the female characters played by Ronni Ancona were equally unremarkable. Most of the time, she actually had to introduce her character to another just so that we’d know who she was supposed to be. And when she didn’t, it was impossible to guess.

The story and many of the gags were amusing, though. I really enjoyed seeing these “has beens’ fall from grace and find a way to cope, some by getting common jobs, others by borrowing a fiver where they could. The references to their works were also amusing, if not clever.

But the picture felt as though it were slightly sketchy, as though it were incomplete. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end, but something didn’t quite gel. I’m not sure quite what. The tail end, at the very least, dragged slightly.

Still, I enjoyed many elements of ‘Stella Street’ and am curious enough to want to watch the original episodes if ever I can get my hands on them. Surely in 10 minutes bite-size bits, it will deliver more ably what a feature length film had difficulty sustaining.

IN the end, I enjoyed my visit to Stella Street enough to warrant another. We’ll see how that goes…

Date of viewing: May 14, 2013

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