Off The Rails review: Forced jollity and clumsily contrived 'comedy'

Amid much forced jollity and clumsily contrived ‘comedy’, Kelly Preston, Jenny Seagrove and Sally Phillips make unlikely friends in Off The Rails

Off The Rails                                                                                  Cert: 15, 1hr 34mins

Rating:

Old                                                                                                       Cert: 15, 1hr 48mins

Rating:

Riders Of Justice                                                                         Cert: 15, 1hr 56mins

Rating:

The World To Come                                                                   Cert: 15, 1hr 45mins

Rating:

Very unfortunately, Off The Rails has been hit not by one tragedy but two. First is that one of its female leads, Kelly Preston, star of Jerry Maguire and For Love Of The Game, and wife of John Travolta, died of cancer a year after filming was completed.

This certainly adds poignancy, not least because she’s playing an American actress, Cassie, who, along with Kate (Jenny Seagrove) and Liz (Sally Phillips), were lifelong friends of Anna. Who, as the film begins, has just died of cancer…

After the funeral, Anna’s grieving mother (Judi Dench, giving the briefest of cameos) hands the trio four Interrail tickets, apparently to recreate a legendary European journey from their youth but with an extra ticket so they can take Anna’s teenage daughter along.

Kelly Preston is playing an American actress, Cassie, who, along with Kate (Jenny Seagrove) and Liz (Sally Phillips, all above with Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips), were lifelong friends of Anna

Kelly Preston is playing an American actress, Cassie, who, along with Kate (Jenny Seagrove) and Liz (Sally Phillips, all above with Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips), were lifelong friends of Anna

The second tragedy is it’s really not very good. With producer Bill Kenwright presumably paying a fortune to plunder Blondie’s back catalogue, this is a film that longs to be Mamma Mia! but falls painfully short. 

Amid much forced jollity and clumsily contrived ‘comedy’, Preston, Seagrove and Phillips make unlikely friends which, given the lack of backstory and anything resembling characterisation, is not surprising.

Old finds writer-director M. Night Shyamalan – he of The Sixth Sense fame – in summer popcorn movie mode, offering a film we’re clearly not meant to be taking seriously but which isn’t clever enough or entertaining enough to remotely satisfy. 

Essentially, three groups of holidaymakers are dropped at a secret beach – supposedly for a wonderful experience – only to discover they’re growing older at an alarming rate. That’s it, really.

Grannies die, kids turn into teenagers, bosoms swell, beards burst through, wrinkles arrive.

It’s contrived, silly and downright nasty at times but worst of all, it’s all so predictable until… nope, that doesn’t work either.

Riders Of Justice is a dark Danish thriller, which starts off as a clever revenge drama only to get potentially derailed by jarring moments of black comedy. But the experienced film-maker Anders Thomas Jensen doesn’t even blink: blending action and comedy superbly, albeit in a very Danish way.

Mads Mikkelsen, a regular Jensen collaborator, is terrific as Markus, the battle-hardened soldier who returns from Afghanistan when his wife is killed in a train accident. 

The police think it was sheer bad luck, an unfortunate chain of coincidences. But Otto, a geeky computer scientist, doesn’t believe in coincidences…

To say more would be to spoil a bullet-riddled rollercoaster that threatens to fall apart at least twice but always comes back together.

The World To Come is set in rural upstate New York in 1856 but was filmed – stunningly well – in Romania. It looks fantastic and with central performances from Mission: Impossible and The Crown star Vanessa Kirby and Fantastic Beasts’ Katherine Waterston, it’s beautifully acted too. 

In fact, it’s such a thing of beauty it’s easy to overlook the fact we’ve seen this sort of ‘lovely, lonely women get the historic hots for each other’ many times before. Ammonite? Portrait Of A Lady On Fire? Still lovely, just not very original.