Bruce P. Mindhorn, with his bionic eye that can literally see the truth, is the best plainclothes detective the Isle of Man has ever had. That’s the premise for “Mindhorn”, an early Nineties detective show starring Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt). The show was phenomenally successful, and Thorncroft was set to become Hollywood’s Next Big Thing. Fast forward 25 years, and he, well, isn’t. In fact, all he’s done in that quarter century is advertise men’s girdles and orthopedic socks.
But Thorncroft does get a job offer, of sorts. There’s been a spot of murder on the Isle of Man, and the suspect is demanding to speak to Detective Mindhorn. In a ¡Three Amigos!/Galaxy Quest-type twist, he seems to believe that Mindhorn is a real detective. Of course, Thorncroft sees this as nothing more than a chance at free publicity, so he dons the old eyepatch and heads back to his old stomping grounds. And that’s the premise for Mindhorn, the new comedy from Barratt and Simon Farnaby (one of the Horrible Histories alumni, and who also plays Thorncroft’s old stunt double).
If nothing else, Mindhorn is a howlingly funny film, and the best British comedy in years. What is most remarkable about it, however, is how it takes disparate influences and styles and somehow marries them all into a coherent and endearing whole. Many high-concept comedies end up feeling like sketches or half-hour specials stretched out into feature films. Not so Mindhorn, which creates just enough backstory for the fictional TV show’s various cast and crew members to prop up its (admittedly purposefully) slight story of murder and corruption.
The most obvious influence here is Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. The story of murder and corruption, usually seen in flashier, bigger budgeted, often American films, is here refracted through the prism of quaint and awkward Englishness, with the Isle of Man serving much the same purpose as the fictional village of Sandford in Hot Fuzz. Then, with Julian Barratt in the starring role, there is The Mighty Boosh to consider. There is more than a little of Barratt’s bumblingly arrogant Howard Moon about Thorncroft, and the Boosh’s humour can be heard in the occasional non sequitur. Finally, there is also some of Alan Partridge’s DNA in Thorncroft and his penchant for getting himself into cringe-inducingly embarrassing situations (this influence is exacerbated by Steve Coogan himself having a supporting role here).
Most importantly, this is a truly hilarious film. There’s something for everyone in Mindhorn, from those Boosh-esque (Booshish?) non sequiturs, through crudely drawn penises (and what may or may not be an anus), to jokes at the expense of the Isle of Man itself (which they’ve been taking on the chin for years). There’s a piece of costume design-cum-sight gag which carries on throughout the entire third act and literally never stops being funny. Perhaps this is hyperbolic, but that could be an apt analogy for the whole film: Mindhorn never stops being funny.