Screenwriters: Jamie Mathieson
Starring: Anna Faris, Chris O'Dowd, (interview) Dean Lennox Kelly, Marc Wootton
Running time: 83 mins
Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel poses a fascinating "what if?" What if you discovered a break in the space time continuum in the gents' at your local pub? This is the quandary that the three heroes of this hugely enjoyable Britcom find themselves in. The Simon Pegg-ian concept, of something extraordinary happening somewhere very ordinary, was explored in Shaun Of The Dead and endlessly in Spaced, and even though FAQ leans heavily on that idea its sincerity is never in doubt
When sci-fi-obsessed nerd Ray (O'Dowd) meets Cassie (Farris) one evening he's baffled by her claims of being a time traveller. He thinks it's all an elaborate prank and blames his pub mates Toby (Wootton) and Pete (Kelly) for the stitch-up. Later in the evening, a drunken Pete discovers a time leak in the gents' toilets while crooning 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' and gets a terrifying glimpse into the future. Returning back to Ray and Toby, Pete attempts to convince his pals that they have to find a way to save everyone in the pub from a gruesome death.
FAQ thrives on the chemistry O'Dowd strikes up with his co-stars, supported by an ingenious, witty script that continually circles back on itself to take the characters on an epic adventure within the confines of four walls. The laddish back-and-forth from writer Jamie Mathieson is razor-sharp - playful jibes fly thick and fast, not least when Ray dismisses Pete's initial toilet time-travel method. "It's more complex than urine and karaoke!" he protests. As the tightly-structured story unfolds, revealing that a time-jumping 'Editor' (Meredith MacNeill) is attempting to erase Toby from history before his greatest artistic achievement, the trio liken the events to killing Kevin Costner before he's made Dances With Wolves.
Faris is the movie's star name, though she's more of an incidental character, needed for plot mechanics and to lend it potential reach in the US. She is giddy and kooky as usual, but sticks out like a sore thumb with her flimsy romantic sub-story squeezed between jocular banter and threats of universe-ending paradoxes. Nonetheless, there's a low-grade charm inherent in FAQ, something that's a major part of its appeal since the British film industry doesn't have the money to service this particular high concept. The appearance of a badly-animated giant CG ant will likely bring a few laughs of derision in Hollywood, yet after years of Doctor Who, the UK is just about used to clunky visual effects.
FAQ is more Bill & Ted than Back To The Future (like the latter, it cleverly sets up a sequel by the close), though frankly it's easy to forgive its shortcomings because there's an awful lot of fun to be found in its brisk 83 minutes. Overcoming a limited budget with imagination and charismatic characters, it's a minor miracle to see a British movie take on a subject matter monopolised by Hollywood and emerge on level terms.
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