The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch (review)

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I don’t think I’ve ever been so crushingly disappointed in something I was certain was a sure bet. How could this happen? How could Eric Idle have morphed, seemingly overnight, from a satiric force of legendary and historic proportions (or, at least, from part of a satiric force of legendary and historic proportions, ie, Monty Python) into something so, well, whorish? A sequel to 1978’s The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash? Go, Eric. I was expecting, I dunno, some fresh sending up of the inanities of pop-culture “journalism” and of the proclivities of the very rich and very famous… like what happens to the very rich and very famous after the party is over. Did Michael Jackson buy up all the rights to the Rutles music? Did Ron Nasty become a primary-school lunch lady in his resulting poverty? Did Stig O’Hara turn to acting in bad movies? A dozen ideas instantly suggest themselves, come spinning right off the top of my head… why didn’t they come spinning off of Idle’s? You can barely even call this a sequel — it’s simply a rerun, trotting out all the same old jokes and even much of the same old footage. There’s no following on of the Rutles story, no continuation, no additional exploration of their subsequent “influence” on pop culture in the 80s and 90s. The only new material of any substance — and “substance” may be too strong a word — are the new interviews with real musicians and pop-culture figures playing along with the joke: but who the hell cares what Jewel thinks about anything? (The interviews with Tom Hanks and Salman Rushdie are the only truly funny ones, mostly because they’re so unexpected.) The one moment of true enjoyment I took from this springs from the running “joke” of Idle (Ella Enchanted) beating up a rival reporter, and that’s only because the rival reporter is played by Jimmy Fallon (Fever Pitch), who, as far as I’m concerned, could use a good beating. I’m almost tempted to say that Idle, as writer and director of this utter waste of time, could use one too.

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