Fisherman’s Friends: One and All movie review - it’s codswallop, but it doesn’t stink

Fisherman’s Friends: One and All movie review - it’s codswallop, but it doesn’t stink

Ready for another helping of fish and chaps? If you were entranced by Cornwall-set Brit com, Fisherman’s Friends (the true-ish story of a bunch of sea-plundering crooners who, in 2010, stormed the UK charts with their first shanties album), you’ll probably look with a kind eye on a sequel that revolves around the band’s attempts to cope with fame and the possibility of a gig at Glasto.

The mood is cheap, cheerful and eminently spoof-able. French and Saunders would have a field day with the bit where a beloved parent falls down a mine shaft. Yet first-time directors, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft, who co-wrote this and the first film, know exactly what they’re doing. Their next project is a biopic of national treasure, Captain Tom Moore. By taking this tack with One and All, Leonard and Moorcroft are practically promising middle England that no boats will be rocked where the Captain’s concerned.

The bulk of the film presents fiftysomething hero, Jim (James Purefoy) and his friends Rowan (Sam Swainsbury) and Leadville (Dave Johns), with obstacles to be overcome. Conniving female fans. Sneering record execs. Woke liberals. You get the idea: Mo money, mo problems.

Things go horribly wrong with the arrival of a new member, Morgan (Richard Harrington), brought in to replace Jim’s dead dad, Jago (David Hayman; back for more action as a permanently beaming ghost). Morgan has a heart of gold, but turns out to be a farmer. O no! Jim hates “sheep shaggers”!

Scriptwriters often say they’re forced to invent high drama because the truth is so dull. Yet the real-life members of Fisherman’s Friends, in 2013, had to deal with a massive tragedy (one they’re still trying to process). A theme of the new film is that life is “complicated”. Let’s just say the c-word rarely springs to mind whilst watching FF2.

Imelda May plays Aubrey, a recovering rock star, in her first acting role (Fisherman's Friends)
Imelda May plays Aubrey, a recovering rock star, in her first acting role (Fisherman's Friends)

Maggie Steed (who plays Jim’s mum) deserves an award for keeping a straight face while delivering the news that the record company will release the band’s second album, “If we can come up with a memorable marketing angle!” Going to Glastonbury was a logical choice for the real Fisherman’s Friends. Here, it just feels like another mad-cap contrivance and when Jim and the gang finally get up on the Pyramid stage there’s very little heat.

The one song that made me shiver (delivered half way through the film, on a coastal-path bench) is Harry Glasson’s Cornwall My Home. Which is NOT a ballad about the joys of owning a second pad in Padstow.

The film also improves when borderline alcoholic Jim meets super-famous singer and AA member Aubrey (48-year old Irish musician Imelda May in her first acting gig), who’s been burnt by success and now wants to hide out in a little castle on the coast.

Yes, it’s cringe-worthy when this clearly wealthy celeb starts railing about intrusive paparazzi; talk about first world problems. And, yes, it’s awkward when she sings a trite and morose ditty and Jim, eyes dilating, murmurs, “Amazing!”

But May is glamorous in an intriguingly brittle way and both she and Purefoy make the most of any witty/sexy/poignant dialogue that comes their way. Jim pretends to be a probing, seductively chummy Desert Island Discs presenter over dinner. Purefoy nails the Radio 4 purr and May’s chuckles don’t sound the least bit fake.

A cameo from a sympathetic, frail-looking Chris Evans (as himself) works, too, and Joshua McGuire and Jade Anouka are ace as Londoners galvanised by the Port Isaac spirit. Best of all, though, is the documentary footage, right at the end, of the Glastonbury trip. The sight of the working class men who inspired the franchise proves ridiculously stirring. All for One is mostly sun-dappled codswallop. But it doesn’t stink.

111mins, cert 12A

In cinemas