BY JEAN WEST
The pair, Omar (The Line of Freedom’s Antonio Aakeel) and Pete (stand-up comedian and Britain’s Got Talent star, Jack Carroll), experience a second loss when their gran dies leaving them with uncertain futures and a directive to ‘look after each other’.
Mindful that they will be somewhat rudderless, the elderly lady leaves them information detailing their remaining relatives, and Omar decides to track down his real dad in Blackpool.
The pair head to the northern seaside town with their few belongings and a small wad of cash. Calamity strikes when Omar goes to buy candy floss for them (“make it big, think Amy Winehouse,” quips Pete). But he is distracted by a pink-haired teenage girl who makes eyes at him.
Meanwhile, the tide comes in, Pete nearly drowns and their suitcase sails towards the horizon, turning their hopes to ashes. After various other encounters, including one with a peculiar fortune teller, they arrive at the affluent home of the Choudray family in the middle of a wedding.
Capitalising on buddy themes from movies like Thelma and Louise and Withnail and I, a fun-filled, sometimes emotional adventure ensues with plenty of laughs, sparked not least from Caroll and other motley cast members, including Jonny Vegas (Uncle Ray, a seedy, kimono-clad, crummy guesthouse owner) and Asim Chaudhry (who splutters his way through paternity denial telling Omar: “I would have done the right thing bro – moved to Karachi.”).
But, while the film produced by Hannah Stevenson, is deft at bucking stereotype, hyping national diversity and thumbing its nose at the politically correct, the script is at times heavy-handed, overly-ham and intrusive and occasionally its humour usurps its own emotional appeal. The boys have a unique bond, which is sometimes eroded by too much dialogue, leaving little to audience interpretation. Thankfully, the boys’ undoubted charm as performers, carries it beyond these minor hiccups.
There are some genuine laugh-out-loud scenes; not least when an elective mute, pubescent relative of Omar begins to seduce Pete, and sneaks into his bed in the middle of the night, jeopardising his brother’s acceptance into his estranged family, and when Vegas comforts Pete after the disappearance of Omar one night with a plateful of chocolate teacakes.
Blackpool itself is seen in its Victorian grandeur, made pretty with splendid sunsets, illuminations and Ferris wheels, in between tender moments and mirth. The comedy turns more slapstick and chaotic towards its close, winding up in an affable charade.
Eaten By Lions is an enjoyable rollercoaster ride that offers up fairly unusual subject matter, seaside humour and the redemption of brotherly love. It is rounded off with the predictable Bangra dance of a feel-good Indian wedding.
Eaten By Lions is released this month.