I find The Hippopotamus unbearable, despite Roger Allam doing his utmost with Stephen Fry’s words
“I’m sorry to piss on your chips but I’m not happy”
Directed by John Jencks and adapted by Tom Hodgson and Blanche McIntyre from Stephen Fry’s novel, The Hippopotamus is an undoubtedly quirky comedy but one which I found insufferable and near impossible to finish, despite a strong cast which includes Roger Allam as Fry-a-like Ted Wallace.
Wallace is a poet with writer’s block, who has resorted to reviewing theatre (though how he can’t care for a homoerotic Titus Andronicus at the Young Vic is beyond me). Fired after drunkenly disrupting that show, he takes on a random assignment from his leukaemia-suffering god-daughter.
That mission is to investigate some miraculous faith healing that is going on at her former family home in the country. Once there though, things get a little strange, and then a lot stranger and bafflingly so, with little method to the rather self-satisfied madness that is going on all around him.
Allam delivers a great line of sardonic wit where he can, undercutting at least some of the silliness but ultimately, it’s a bit of a dog’s dinner of a film, even blessed with the likes of Russell Tovey, Fiona Shaw and Matthew Modine in the cast, its puerile sense of humour never letting it soar.