Dirk. Nasty. Stig. Barry.
Perhaps you’ve forgotten how unforgettable they are. Well, forget that. Intrepid host/interviewer Melvin Hall is here to refresh the recall of all Rutlemaniacs!
Eric Idle (Monty Python) portrays Hall plus writes, produces, directs and, rumor has it, prepares off camera some well-received bangers and mash for the crew in a sequel to The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash. From concerts to backstage moments, from success (A Hard Day’s Rut) to misunderstood flops (Tragical History Tour), from familiar tunes to those that make you wonder if you left the kettle on, the whole great, hilarious tale is here.
eyelights: the quick overview of The Rutles’ history. some of the new interviews.
eyesores: the redundancy of the material.
“So shameless. So shameless.”
‘The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch’ is a follow-up to Eric Idle and Neil Innes’ The Beatles spoof ‘All You Need is Cash‘. Released in 2002, it came in the distant shadows of The Beatles’ own documentary series ‘Anthology’, which The Rutles also spoofed with the CD compilation ‘Archaeology’.
This TV special is particular in that the other Rutles weren’t invited to participate in the project; it was strictly an Eric Idle solo outing. In so doing, there is only archival footage of the other band members, with no new material shot to provide any new insight on the them whatsoever.
Thus, unusually, ‘The Rutles 2’ is pretty much a rehash of the original biography, sans full-length musical numbers, but with new, contemporary interviews with musicians, actors and other celebrities, and a host of outtake material that was not used in the original 1978 television special.
And I suppose that this is where the show succeeds the most: in providing us with an alternate look at The Rutles via a wealth of material thus far never seen. For fans, this is fascinating stuff, even if it’s only presented in short snippets (they’re outtakes, after all) and interspersed with older material.
Where the show fails is in its redundancy. Why do we need two versions of the same story? We don’t. Although I enjoy the fact that it’s more condensed, watching the two back-to-back would be an exercise in futility; one would soon be bored with the largely similar structures of the specials.
The new interviews aren’t exactly contributing much, either. While everyone under the sun has been enlisted to add star-studded appeal to this otherwise pointless endeavour, there are scant gems to be culled out of the whole hour, and very many interviews that are of little consequence in the end.
My favourite was Billy Connolly, as a Rutles hater, whose delivery was trenchant and lacking false praise. Gary Shandling and Steve Martin were amusing, but not especially hilarious, with Martin pretentiously holding his stupid banjo like so many self-absorbed musicians do (he does take it rather seriously, in fact).
But for every Connolly, there were the Tom Hanks and Carrie Fishers, who lamely made all sorts of statements in what seemed like ill-conceived scripting or poorly-executed improvisations. The candid interview outtakes were almost more interesting than the programme itself. David Bowie, in particular, was magnetic (as always).
But even Eric Idle couldn’t save this shameless cash-grab. Whereas his bits were the funniest part of the original programme, here he mostly redoes what he did then, but not especially well. The introduction, in particular, was marred by poor direction and some seriously inept performances.
And what new material he brings to the table is not especially funny or original. There’s this recurring bit with Jimmy Fallon as a competing reporter whom he struggles with throughout, but Fallon serves up an unbelievably poor performance and the resolution of the conflict is ridiculously amateurish.
In the end, ‘The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch’ (or more accurately, ‘The Rutles Redux’) is only worth it for people who have not seen the original. Personally, while I love its brevity, it adds nothing to the Rutles mythology, contributes no new laughs, and consequently piddles on what was once an inspiration.
This programme is for maniacal fans of The Rutles and newbies only. Everyone else should skip this lunch.
Date of Viewing: December 27, 2013