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3.2 out of 5 stars
A Cock and Bull Story
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2011
Odd. Slightly confusing. Lacking in traditional structure...yes.
Intelligent. Chuckle-worthy. Original... Definitely.
A film, about a film about an unfilmable book.

A strange movie, undoubtedly and at first I didn't know how to take it. Was it a love story? Was it a mockumentary? One thing was certain...it was definitely a comedy. Quirky, off-the-wall jokes typical of Steve Coogan's works were a constant in this film.

My favourite aspect of this film was its combination of realism and surrealism making the movie delightful to watch. But another outstanding aspect was its portrayal of relationships; be it the clashing single-sided friendship of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, Steve's clashing relationship with the entire crew, Steve's failing relationship with his girlfriend and his sucessful relationship with his new mistress it was all delightful.

The "actors", or the actors portrayal of the actors,'s view of the film at the end of the film was a definite favourite scene.

They say that "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy" is the unfilmable novel, and similarly this film is the unreviewable film.
I cannot guarantee you'll love it, but it's definitely a one-of-a-kind and definitely worth the risk.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The classic novel by Laurence Sterne is best described in this movie: "This is a postmodern novel before there was any modernism to be post about."

So it sounded pretty disastrous that a film was being adapted from it. Actually, half a film -- the other film is a mockumentary about a film crew desperaately trying to make some kind of movie, out of a book with way too much material. It's wickedly clever, but there's too little Tristram Shandy and too much about the shoes.

While his mother is in labor, a grown Tristram Shandy (Steve Coogan) narrates the backdrop of his life -- his awkward conception, the farcical circumstances of his birth, early penile injury, his uncle's obsessions and (ahem) war wounds, and the circumstances of being named Tristram (and not Trismegistus, which is even worse).

But then we cut to the real world, where a film crew is filming the whole thing. Star Steve Coogan (himself) and director Michael Winterbottom (Jeremy Northam) are struggling to make this novel as true to the spirit of Stern's book as possible. The problem is, there's WAY too much material, and everyone wants different aspects -- love story, battle, his own character -- to stand out as the MAIN part of the story. Will the movie be funny? A sell-out? A big confusing mess?

Filming an unfilmable book is usually either going to be a disaster or a masterpiece -- for the latter, look at "Lord of the Rings." But "Tristram Shandy" hovers somewhere in the middle, courtesy of its mockumentary storyline, and some pointed mockery of the studio bigwigs.

Basically, the bigwigs interfere and insist on stars -- such as Gillian Anderson, who barely makes it to the final cut -- and hoard money, because the movie is too quirky for their tastes. Meanwhile, the stars quibble about minutiae (like shoe height), and real-life director Michael Winterbottom deliberately blurs the lines of fantasy and reality, letting one seep into another. And it has Coogan in a giant plastic womb.

And there's an extra kudos for the dialogue. Half of it is deliciously witty modern stuff ("The thing is, I can't act..." "I know that." "... with Gillian Anderson. I have a proper sexual thing for Gillian Anderson. I covet her"), but there's a whole different style for Tristram. He tends to have these faux-serious metafictional monologues, which end up being very funny ("That is a child actor, pretending to be me. I'll be able to play myself later").

The problem? Well, there's too much of Coogan and not enough Shandy, especially in the second half. It would have improved the movie dramatically to cut some of this stuff about Coogan flirting with Jennie out, because it's really quite dull compared to Tristram. When the fantasy/reality starts leaning too heavily into reality, the movie starts sagging. Big time.

Coogan does a pretty good job playing himself, but he's much better as Tristram/Walter -- arch, wry and kind of inconsiderate. Rob Brydon is enormous fun as himself/Toby, and Naomie Harris is fairly good as a movie nut who specializes in arty German cinema, and not much else. Anderson isn't in the movie for long, but her "equipment" scene is gutsplittingly funny.

"Tristram Shandy - A Cock and Bull Story" is a very funny film, but one bogged down by too much reality (and Coogan). Entertaining, witty and strange.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2011
This is almost unique. A Comedy period drama that interacts cleverly with the pseudo 'real life' of the actors as they make it and draws subtle parallels with the Novel. It has a slightly dark feel to it, together with fast well crafted scenes that merge seemelessly. Constantly surprising, often surreal - well written/acted. It is one that will grow in depth and appreciation the 2nd time you watch it, as the first viewing will leave your mind reeling.

If thats put people off - basically, If you liked 'The Trip' - you will love this.
Its a brilliant piece of work. Congratulations to all concerned.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
True to the style of the novel until it becomes sidetracked, prolific underachiever Michael Winterbottom's riff on Tristram Shandy, A Cock and Bull Story is a half-decent attempt to film an allegedly unfilmable novel, something it does surprisingly well for about half an hour until it gives up and concentrates instead on the travails of making the movie and the growing paranoia of leading man Steve Coogan as he is increasingly upstaged by Rob Brydon. Unfortunately, as so often on the big screen, Coogan is decidedly awkward at first, and the comedy isn't as biting or funny as you'd like, relying a little too awkwardly on injokes. All too obviously a film of two halves, with the backstage story taking over the movie completely for the best part of an hour before returning to the narrative briefly, it's hard not to feel it would have benefited more from dipping in and out of the novel rather than abandoning it for so long. But there's still much to enjoy, not least Rob Brydon playing a love scene in the style of Roger Moore, though it falls far short of Coogan and Winterbottom's previous collaboration, the excellent 24 Hour Party People.

Although at first sight fairly skimpy on the extras, the DVD offers surprisingly good value - not only does the full interview with Tony Wilson (who Coogan played in 24 Hour Party People) appear as promised in the film, but the deleted and extended sequences, though few in number, are longer than expected.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 2013
I watched this a couple of years back and wasn't that impressed. I've just read Tristram Shandy and that made the world or difference! I loved it. Great fun.
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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2006
I don't necessarily want to say the reviewers who hate this film are wrong but they didn't seem to understand the concept of this film. It's not supposed to have a plot and the film intelligently plays on the concepts of the book which is about life not actually having a plot.

Also Rob Brydon steals much of this film so I don't think you have to be a Partridge fan at all. Especially as the comedy is so different (and it is funny even if there a very few "jokes", the power struggle between Coogan and Brydon is excellent).

So I'd recommend making up your own mind and keeping an open one before seeing it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2011
The film loses momentum but it made milk come out of my nose at one point so that's a win. If you've ever laughed at Adam Sandler then I'd give this a miss.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2010
I think the common problem with all the nay-sayers here is that they had too high expectations. They either expected more because they loved the novel or they expected more because they love Coogan.

I showed this to my class of French students as an example of postmodern British film because my first choice went missing at the last minute. They loved it, and after seeing it two times, I loved it too.

The key is, don't go in with any expectations. Yes, it's all over the place, but yes, it is at times VERY funny.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2014
How does one even begin to approach the writing of a review for a film based - ostensibly - upon a book, when the source text is so self-consciously obscure and non-linear, and where the film adaptation is, for the most part, unconcerned (to put it mildly) with the telling of the novel's tale, such as it is?

Well: A Cock and Bull Story is that very film; Tristram Shandy is that novel, and this review, to be absolutely clear on the matter, is that review.

First of all, I am reminded to bring to your attention that most famous of phrases heard in its original Latin: "Ars Gratia Artis". It means "Art for Art's sake", though, if you have read this far, I would not presuppose that you would be unfamiliar with such a fact. It is a phrase which has been inseparably linked to the world of the moving picture for some nine decades: being, as it is, the motto of the Metro-Goldwyn Mayer film studios.

MGM did not play any part in either the creation or the funding of the film for which I am writing this review however; and this subject is (as far as I can tell) an entirely unrelated one, and a side track along which I have no intention of embarking at this early stage. I only draw your attention to that company now for the reasons of the aforementioned motto which they have chosen: it being a motto which most certainly does bear some relevance to the topic at hand.

As a coincidental (though for the most part irrelevant) observation on the fact, A Cock and Bull Story is distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment, and the MGM mascot is itself a lion. It is a simple matter and wholly unimportant to this review, though I thought I would bring it to your attention anyway. I should stress again that MGM played no part in the making of this film.

As the review seems at this point to be in danger of losing its way, I think it may be of some value to recap the most significant points we have visited thus far, and then look for a way to proceed from there. Onward, and onto the most important parts of the review.

We are all now familiar with the notion that A Cock and Bull Story is, as a matter of fact, the telling of another story: the story of Tristram Shandy. We have also heard described the self-evident truth that Tristram Shandy is a novel, whereas A Cock and Bull Story is a film (distributed, as the keener reader will have recalled, by Lionsgate Home Entertainment Ltd, and not MGM Studios as I have heard many erroneously believe). There was, after these initial revelations, some discussion of that most unrelated of film studios: a discussion for which I have no time to add any further comments at this point. Though let its presence here be noted now if only for completeness' sake, and so that none shall be able to accuse this review of being in any way an inadequate account of the events up until this point.

Before I chose to recap the contents of my review, I had brought forwards for your consideration that motto: "Art For Art's Sake", and it is for the sake of Art itself and the creative muse that I find the greatest measure of enjoyment is to be found in A Cock and Bull Story. Some might describe this film as a great story artlessly told; others, that it is not a story at all, but that it is told artfully, nonetheless.

Whether a film is a fine example of one thing, or a terrible example of another, it hardly seems fitting nor appropriate to say in a review such as the one you have availed yourself to reading presently. For if I were to suggest that it were one thing, only for it to be proven - beyond any amount of doubt or dissent - that it were, in actual fact, something altogether different, would that not count as some black mark against both myself, and the esteem with which you had held my review up until this point, when we have already seen that much truth and accuracy has been written prior to this most awkward moment? No: in my understanding, it is not the business of the reviewer to decide for his readers what a thing is, and what a thing may (or may not) be. For, just as I may think I know what this film is, I can just as equally not know all of the things that it is not; and nor should I be expected to.

What I can say however, is this: A Cock And Bull Story is a fine example of what it is, whatever what it is may in fact be.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 August 2011
I came to this film as a long time fan of the book Tristram Shandy. The film does indeed feature some of the funniest sequences from the book. However the overall effect is of a rather oddly put together greatest hits collection.

We get
Tristram Shandy's accident with the window
Tristram's uncle going on about the battle where he was injured

We also get
some music from the Draughtsman's Contract
some not bad period shooting

There is also a mix of comedy stylings from Steve Coogan, doing a sour star in the style of numerous recent TV faux documentary comedies, doing pantomime when a hot chestnut is dropped into his trousers [the only bit that had me laughing out loud], a running strand of meditation on film-making as in La Nuit Americaine [DVD].

However the dominant element is the bickering between Coogan and Brydon, it is not clear whether it is scripted or improvised.

In theory there is no reason why this should not work, if the various elements complimented each other, but most viewers are likely to find it dull and frustrating for a chunk of the viewing time. Although Gillian Anderson is game, she is only in the film for about ten minutes, oddly Keeley Hawes, though great in the Tristram Shandy elements, does not participate in the lengthy improvised scenes. You wonder if they were signed up when the script looked very different.

In the end it is one of those self indulgent films that was probably more fun to make than it was to watch. It is not really bad, but considering the source material, one of the greatest and most entertaining modernist books ever written, it is not all that good either.
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