J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mr. Stink: No, He’s not French

For their first 3D special, the BBC chose to adapt David Walliams’ mildly gross children’s book.  They should have made it in Smell-O-Vision.  Perhaps more importantly, it stars Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, which is probably why PBS will also broadcast Declan Lowney’s Mr. Stink (promo here) this Sunday on most affiliates nationwide.

He is not called Mr. Stink for nothing.  The ill-tempered vagrant is not big on hygiene.  He does not think much of kids either, yet he somehow befriends twelve year old Chloe Crumb, a social outcast in the John Hughes tradition.  Shunned at school, Crumb also feels increasingly alienated from her mother Caroline, a neophyte candidate in an important by-election, who serves as a shrill caricature of all things not properly progressive.  Intrigued by his mysterious origins and duly impressed by his power to control huge plumes of stench, Chloe offers Mr. Stink temporary shelter in their back shed.

Of course, Cruella Crumb cannot discover Mr. Stink, which pretty much guarantees she will, at the most inopportune moment.  In fact, his discovery will have political repercussions reaching all the way to Downing Street.  Yes, Mr. Stink is another show that believes the world would be a better place if heads of state just took the advice of tramps sleeping in the park.  Granted, there are millions of people due to lose their health insurance who probably think we would be better off with any randomly selected derelict, but that’s a different matter entirely.

Frankly, the BBC’s Julia Donaldson animated specials (such as the Oscar shortlisted Room on the Broom) are a lot more fun than Stink.  Still, Bonneville (a.k.a. Lord Grantham) develops some pleasant screen chemistry with the reasonably down-to-earth and grounded Nell Tiger Free as Crumb.  Younger viewers will probably focus on Stink’s pooch, The Duchess, doggedly portrayed by the game Pudsey.  At least she is not of those annoying screen pets who constantly mug for the camera, so yes, you can say the dog gives a performance of mature restraint.  The same cannot be said for Sheridan Smith and the author, who shtick up the joint as Caroline Crumb and the PM, respectively.

To be fair, there are a handful of witty lines in Stink, but the major plots points are corny clichés.  Bonneville and Smith can easily be seen in superior projects (like Downton and The Scapegoat), whereas the promising Free surely has better vehicles in her future.  Neither recommended nor truly despised (mostly just kind of meh), Mr. Stink airs on most PBS outlets tomorrow night (12/22), but Bonneville fans should just hold out for season four of Downton premiering on PBS January 5th.

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