James Purefoy and Sam Swainsbury, centre, are in tune (Picture: PA/Entertainment Film Distributors)
Fisherman’s Friends in 2019 – essentially Local Hero with Cornish sea shanties – was one of the last homegrown sleeper hits before Covid pulled into port.
This patched-up sequel/footnote feels like the British film industry trying to resume where it left off, even as half the original’s leads have jumped ship.
No sign this time round of sympathetic A&R man Daniel Mays and love interest Tuppence Middleton (redirected to Australia) or nefarious record exec Noel Clarke (who in real life has since been embroiled with his own legal issues).
Instead, we greet the grizzled survivors returning from the tour that concluded film one and confronting the pressures that follow from late-life success.
Tersely alcoholic frontman Jim (James Purefoy) starts talking to his late father’s spirit (David Hayman), an understandable response to being asked to dress up as a fish finger for publicity purposes.
Conveniently, a lifebuoy drifts into shot – B&B guest Aubrey Flynn, an Irish singer ‘who had a couple of hits in the Nineties’. She’s played by the Irish singer Imelda May, someone with a few hits to her own name.
Promoted to the director’s seat, original screenwriters Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft are themselves wrestling with the idea of midlife course correction – and sending the Friends off for sensitivity training nimbly addresses criticisms that the first film was pale-male-and-stale.
Again, though, the quality control varies scene by scene. The Jim-Aubrey sundown romance charms but Leonard and Moorcroft get distracted by misadventures elsewhere, including a child stuck down an abandoned mineshaft.
The first film was criticised for being pale-male-and-stale (Picture: PA/Entertainment Film Distributors)
This sequel feels more like a fun holiday for its makers rather than a film production (Picture: PA/Entertainment Film Distributors)
Only the music holds their interest and then only as reassuring vibes. Stirring harmonies are inserted with the regularity of Fast & Furious pile-ups but the Friends are apparently the only band who’ve recorded an album without entering a studio.
Mildly amiable and amusing, it looks like a Doc Martin spin-off and still feels far more like a fun holiday for its makers than it does appointment cinema – but then we critics said the same about the first film, and look how that worked out.
Fisherman’s Friends: One And All (12A) is in cinemas on Friday.
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