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Stars: Andy Serkis, Olivia Williams, Noamie Harris, Ray Winstone, Bill Milner, Noel Clarke, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Tom Hughes, Luke Evans

Director: Mat Whitecross

One of Ian Dury and the Blockheads' biggest hits was Reasons to be Cheerful, reprised vigorously over the end credits by Andy Serkis. In truth, though, there are very few reasons to be cheerful in this chaotic biopic, which shows Dury, stricken by polio at 10, having a hard time as a kid and giving everyone else a hard time as a consequence.

Although hardly a gifted singer, Dury's demonic grin and fierce energy created a stage presence audiences took to, giving him wealth and success: reasons to be grateful, you'd think, though there's little evidence of that here. He leaves his first wife (Williams) corrupts his son (Milner), drives away his mistress (Harris) and displays a grudge against life that often leads to drunkenness and violence.

The unattractive nature of its subject isn't helped by the construction of the film, which flits from year to year, all the while laced with brief flashbacks to Dury's childhood and memories of his father (Winstone in a a role anyone could have played). The movie's chief asset is the formidably impressive, all-stops-out interpretation by Serkis of the monster himself, even if the songs are scarcely enhanced by his delivery.

We're all for warts-and-all biopics. But when there's nothing but warts, the whole thing becomes a bit of a grind.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Entertainment. Fujicolor.
117 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 03 Jan 2010