Hot Fuzz meets Trainspotting in this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival opener: a farce that weaves every throwaway gag and ridiculous scenario into a raucous, joyous paean to youthful indiscretions. Boyz in the Wood follows four mismatched teenagers and two hapless police officers – both parties equally out of their depth in the Scottish Highlands’ upper-crust underworld – with a focus on pure slapstick fun. Supporting this madcap humour are social satire and genuine niceness; the comedic catastrophes fly thick and fast but hide neither a keen assessment of the boy’s disenfranchised reality nor full sympathy for even the silliest decisions.
It is a bit disappointing that the characters and their journeys largely fit into known tropes – including school vandal, wannabe rap star, and over-eager home-schooler – especially considering that much of the police humour revolves around their immediate stereotypical assumptions as to the cause of this Highlands ruckus. However, the young cast’s immense energy and vibrancy make their (mis)adventures a joy – notably Samuel Bottomley’s inevitably put-upon newcomer and Rian Gordon’s impulsive troublemaker.
The adult cast are equally memorable. Alice Lowe pushes Katie Dickie’s and Kevin Guthrie’s rural officers to greater absurdity in her single deadpan scene, and watching Eddie Izzard’s English-accented Highland toff swear and shoot at children is tremendous fun. Behind the camera, director Ninian Doff makes an assured feature debut – his music video background is evident in the more hallucinogenic sequences, and he confidently and clearly frames visual gags and midnight chases.
The pace flags when the boys briefly part ways for some second act shenanigans (while fun, they lack the pop of the ensemble pieces) and the ending comes together a bit too nicely. That said, Boyz in the Wood moves with the chaotic exuberance of its protagonists, combining all moving parts into a triumphant whole.
CAST: Samuel Bottomley, Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, Viraj Juneja, Eddie Izzard, Katie Dickie, Alice Lowe
DIRECTOR: Ninian Doff
WRITER: Ninian Doff
SYNOPSIS: Four mismatched, misfit boys undertake their Duke of Edinburgh award and quickly discover that the great outdoors is the least of their worries.