Since I have a little sister, I’m occasionally subject to the programming of CBBC, some of which – Wizards Vs Aliens, Nowhere Boys, Sorry I’ve Got No Head – is highly decent, but I must confess I’ve never been exposed to Friday Download, so if in reviewing its new The Movie version I flub any details, then apologies to all our younger readers.
According to my aforementioned little sister, the programme follows the fictionalised lives of several of the teen stars of CBBC’s other flagship programmes – meta! – in a loose variety-show format. Yes, those were exactly the words she used, honest. The film sees the Friday Download gang on the Welsh road trip of a lifetime when their bus breaks down unexpectedly, right in the middle of no-mobile-signal territory – though unlike the States or Australia, with their vast swathes of Hills Have Eyes/Wolf Creek inhospitable cannibal lands, isn’t the UK probably fully jacked in to the network by now, given its small size and high population density? Regardless, the gang seek shelter in the nearby Vincent Pricey mansion, whereupon the spooking gets underway.
Again, I haven’t seen the programme the film is spun-off from, so it’s easily possible that I’m missing the point entirely, but for a programme mostly focused on music (as the title suggests) and comedy, the old haunted-house route seems like a strange one to go down, especially when the kids are so unlikely to have seen all those black-and-white chillers, though Scooby-Doo is still popular enough to keep the imagery familiar. But, strange direction or not, that isn’t to say that it isn’t well-done. The production values are solid and in places the film is genuinely scary, probably scary enough to alienate at least part of its target audience. Some comedy setpieces, too, are well-delivered, the most memorable of which involves David Mitchell, making sure the adults aren’t too bored, doing the classic “pedantic policeman” bit. The film’s writing isn’t noticeably below the level you might see from an OK sitcom for grown-up audiences; the main thing that gives it away as tween-and-young-teen-oriented is not the scripting of the jokes, but their make-sure-everyone-gets-it delivery. But if that’s what its target audience responds to, and apparently it is, then all involved are getting their jobs done respectably, and if it isn’t really worth any adult’s time in its own right, the film isn’t a waste of time either for parents and guardians dragged along.
Up All Night is released on DVD today (19 October 2015) from Great Point Media and Spirit Entertainment! Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!