Movie Reviews : British Popsters in ‘It Couldn’t Happen Here’


“It Couldn’t Happen Here” (AMC Century 14 in Century City) shouldn’t have happened anywhere.

Certainly the Pet Shop Boys, Britishers Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant, don’t deserve the cruel fate they receive here. They are purveyors of pleasant and popular bubble-gum rock who have been caught up in what is essentially a string of MTV-type numbers overlaid with a pseudo-surreal style and snatches of confounding philosophical discourse that might have something to do with Einstein’s theory of relativity (for all I know).

In any event, writer-director Jack Bond has done in the boys with lots of pretentious and boring twaddle. How curious it is that Bond would serve up such bland, even danceabl e numbers and performers as essentially uncharismatic as the unprepossessing Lowe and Tennant in such a highfalutin way. Bond and co-writer James Dillon’s modest (at best) attempts at humor congeal in that relentlessly grim way peculiar to failed British comedy.


As is so often the case with forays into the surreal, “It Couldn’t Happen Here” is an Odyssey with a capital O in which the tuxedoed Tennant journeys into the past as well as the future--accompanied by keyboardist Lowe, who’s unshaven, wearing a leather jacket and jeans and not doing much of anything but hanging around until the film is over.

The film’s key jumping-off place, a seedy seaside resort complete with amusement zone, is also a typical setting for mining symbols of nostalgia, childhood and fantasy. Bond lined up some prominent and reliable veterans to play a variety of weird and zany types, but the effect of seeing actors of the caliber of Joss Ackland and Barbara Windsor doing demeaning bits is unalloyed embarrassment. Typical of the film’s miscalculated humor is placing a pop-eyed, stentorian-voiced Ackland as a compulsive killer seated in the back seat of the Pet Boys’ car, joining in the singing of their hit version of the sure-fire evergreen “Always on My Mind.” It might have worked as a sendup had some kind of comic context been established, but Bond’s approach is strictly all miss, no hit. Too bad he didn’t check out “Head” in which Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson (as writer, not actor) more than 20 years ago managed to create a surreal, funny and personal film--with the Monkees yet.