Starring: Simon Pegg, Minnie Driver and Christopher Lloyd
Directed by: Adam Sigal
Running Time: 96 minutes
Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
At 2021’s San Diego Comic Con, I attended a panel for “Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose.” I had an actual interest in the panel after having recently listened to Last Podcast on the Left doing an episode on the subject. The film is based on a peculiar incident from 1930s Britain about, well, a talking mongoose. While that seems straightforward, the movie isn’t. Honestly, it’s odd attending a panel where everyone has a difficult time articulating what the film is about. It’s even odder watching the film.
While listed as a comedy, I didn’t laugh once during the film, but I’m not sure the film was written and filmed as a comedy. Sure, you have Simon Pegg as Dr. Fodor, who begins the movie explaining a belief in the paranormal as someone who sees something that no one else can see. In fact, most scenes with Dr. Fodor seem to be moments written for dry chuckles. That’s because he’s a natural skeptic whose life has been debunking every psychic phenomenon, every bump in the night and every scare tactic he can get his hands on. It’s beginning to wear him thin as he glides through life one hoax and alcoholic beverage at a time. That’s when a fellow skeptic and professor, played by the delightful Christopher Lloyd, tells him about Gef, the talking mongoose. With his assistant Anne, played by Minnie Driver, in tow, Dr. Fodor is off to the Isle of Man to unravel a mystery that will never be solved.
I had the knowledge going into this film that Gef remains a mystery. Is it the work of bored playful humans? Was Gef an actual talking creature lost to time? Was Gef the culmination of poltergeist activity? There are way more theories than answers and honestly, the film mimics that true to life story. That could genuinely frustrate anyone looking for an engaging story, much less a comedic one. Since the film isn’t necessarily going to give you answers or a laugh, why can’t I flat out not recommend it?
The film is peculiar in that I was never bored. While the characters talk in hushes and whispers while silently thinking about the day’s event (usually over a drink or two…or three), it seems like someone is screaming something at the top of their lungs, just below the surface. Annie is the only one of the main cast that’s genuinely open minded to the possibility of Gef’s existence, at least, outside of the peculiar townsfolk and family side characters that have allegedly heard Gef. It’s almost like Annie, after years of watching Dr. Fodor unmasking mysteries, is beginning to tire of the dog and pony show. Or maybe she’s warming up to the idea of Gef, and life, being a giant question mark, while Dr. Fodor can’t possibly fathom a question without an answer.
So maybe the film is more than a look at this absurd true-life story, but instead an encapsulation of how we shouldn’t let small things bog us down in life. Especially since Dr. Fodor, who has obvious chemistry with Anne, never seems to act on those sparks. Instead he seems miserably content with being single and skeptical of everyone and everything, as long as he has a stiff drink in his hand. But in a way, that’s why I can’t recommend it. Maybe I’m giving too much credit to a poorly written and directed film that wanders aimlessly for 90ish minutes. Maybe that screaming I sensed underneath the surface was the cast demanding any form of direction. Just like Gef, this film is a tonal mystery.