The Likely Lads – 1976
Ian La Frenais
Review by John Rouse Merriott Chard
Bob and Terry hit the big screen with typically miserable glee.
A big screen outing for likely lads Rodney Bewes and James Bolam, it’s a spin off from the popular TV shows that the two made in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s directed by Michael Tuchner and written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais.
Plot sees lifelong friends Bob Ferris (Bewes) and Terry Collier (Bolam) finding that times are a changing very fast. When the street where they grew up starts to be demolished, the pair feel the pangs of nostalgia more than most, even bringing the onset of a sort of mid-life crisis. Bob has to face life in the normality of a marriage to the no nonsense Thelma (Brigit Forsyth), and Terry, recently divorced, takes on a new girlfriend whilst firmly ensconced at his parents high rise flat. When Thelma sees that Terry, once the bane of her relationship with Bob, is going steady and happy with Christina (Mary Tamm), she plans a caravan holiday for the four of them….Which surely will not go as planned?
Although taking the title of the first show that ran on British TV between 1964 and 1966, this film spin off is closer in tone to the sequel show, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? During the 70’s, Britain was awash with situation comedies, many of which had the obligatory film spin off. Sadly, very few of them were any good, bogged down by trying to extend a half hour comedy formula into three times the running time. The Likely Lads movie is one of the rare successes, mainly because the writers were so in tune with the times, they were able to plant the much loved characters in the 70’s time frame and involve the comedy as such. Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? Always carried an air of melancholy about it, but the comedy was still rich and prominent, so it be with this film version.
Bewes and Bolam were an excellent partnership, where Bob is a snob in waiting, borderline henpecked one at that, Terry is the slob, the boozy cynic always dragging Bob back to reality. But their bond is born from the days of hard drinking and chasing women, they hanker for those days again, it’s almost as if they refuse to accept they are getting a bit too long in the tooth for such antics now. Here in the film, Clement and La Frenais play on this with much reward, you see, the modern world has not just caught them up, it’s also winning the race between them. The answer is simple, take a holiday. But of course this too will be one for the miserablists to bemoan, it’s a classic British holiday, small caravan, pouring rain, chance of nooky? Zero. Chance of great comedy? Very high.
The plot doesn’t in truth quite cover the 90 minute run time, but there’s enough here to warrant it being called one of the better film spin offs from the 70’s. Great acting, not just the boys, Forsyth always a revelation, and writing as crisp as a winters day. God bless those Geordie boys. 8/10