Judge Dennis Prince now wishes he'd kept his Rutlemania paraphernalia from 1978 just to prove we've already seen this before.
The Rutles are back, and they're just as good as ever. After 23 years, they've barely changed. Actually, they haven't changed at all because this disc you've just purchased is the same one you bought before, even though you thought it was new without knowing it's not at all different than the other one you thought you already knew and believed was different than this one.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…unless you're caught doing it to yourself. In The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch, writer/director Eric Idle (Monty Python's Flying Circus) has been caught with his own output in his hands once again. That is to say, we've seen him pulling this one before. You see, Eric is clearly guilty of re-mastering himself here. Sadly, there's so little here to see even though we'd expect to see something bigger coming from Eric Idle. Actually, it seems to have gotten shorter since the last time we saw it in 1978.
Originally aired in 2002, The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch sought to prove that, much like a molding bologna sandwich, you simply can't keep a bad band down. The Rutles, that delightful 1960s mop-crop-top collection of four musicians—Dirk McQuickly (Eric Idle), Ron Nasty (Neil Innes), Stig O'Hara (Ricky Fataar), and Barry Wom (John Halsey)—is back doing almost exactly what they did before during 1978's The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash. In fact, much of what you'll see here smacks of similarity because it bears such a striking similitude to that sameness we saw from the same people in the same way some time ago. If you're adverse to risk, preferring the safety and comfort of the rut in which you trudge day after day, then you'll be very much at home in this retelling of the already-told tale of the Rutles.
Returning is the incessant TV journalist Melvin Hall (Idle), eager to revisit the legendary impact of the Rutles, the band of four Liverpudlians who formed a band, grew their hair, and made a noise. Their style was catchy, their music was clappy, and so were their groupies. After making a splash in the Hamburg, Germany, club scene with their infectious tune "Goose-Step Mama," the Rutles caught the eye of a gimpy man who was asking a sailor for…well, never mind what he was asking for because this was the man who would become recognized as Leggy Mountbatten, the Rutles' legendary manager who found that it was the boys' trousers—not their tunes—that so captivated him. He took the band to America in 1964, while promising that they would be bigger than Elvis. He was laughed at, mostly for his pronounced limp, but delivered a foursome in tight trousers that captured America's attention. And so the story goes of how the Rutles, four mates who couldn't get arrested a few years earlier, now couldn't get a rest from the nonstop touring, the crush of the crowd, and the shagging—the endless amounts of shagging.
Okay. It's all such juicy material, the sort that makes parody so wonderful, especially when it comes at the expense of other people. But if the intent here was for Eric Idle to actually parody his own parody, well then it's all just a bit stupid, isn't it? Indeed, The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch becomes rather tiresome in the way that it retreads the material already explored in the first show, the way it replays the songs we've already heard from the first show, and how its title takes just as long to type as the first show. So despite the overflowing amounts of cleverness, cheekiness, and tedium, this "sequel" acts more like a Nyquil in that it's what we've seen, heard, and smelled before and so it never succeeds in getting any sort of sustainable rise out of us and, instead, makes us just want to roll over and nap a bit. A flaccid flop, The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch just sort of lays there and looks kind of wrinkly and sticky, daring you to touch it even after your mother told you not to.
But then there's the whole digital thing, isn't there? After all, this is the time of DVDs, widescreen formats, bonus features, and shiny discs that make mind-altering colors if you hold them just right under a light bulb. Well, this disc has all that, starting with several tamper-proof labels that defy you to even gain access to the disc entombed inside without risking nasty cuts that might very well become infected. Get a friend or an ailing relative to open the disc for you, then, and witness the vibrant full-frame transfer that makes the show look so much better than it actually is. Naturally, this program is made up of the same patchwork of rare and not-so-rare footage, so the image quality is always shifting, much as you'll be as you rearrange your buttocks around in your chair hoping to get comfortable with this show. It's a colorful show, though, and you'll probably find yourself—much as I did—trying to think of other movies and shows you saw recently that used the same shades of red, blue, and brown as you'll see here. That sound you hear is the disc's audio, presented in glorious Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. It's a mellifluous mix that demonstrates how potent today's technology has become, able to provide the same enveloping aural fullness you'd expect when present to witness a buffalo breaking wind.
As if this weren't enough, some bonus features are festering inside this shiny disc's dual layers. First, there are over 25 minutes of additional interviews, which do absolutely nothing to enhance the previous 56 minutes you've endured, yet serve as a pleasant excuse to keep your visiting in-laws quiet for just a bit longer. If those ungrateful houseguests begin to stir, quickly select the "Melvin Outtakes" to see if additional sequences of Eric Idle as Melvin Hall will keep them sedated in their seats. After they've raided your pantry and clogged up your loo, show them the "Alternate Ending" while reminding them this could have all been so different if you hadn't gotten so drunk all those years ago and met their daughter and promised to be faithful until your dying breath, without having first requested a look at a family photo to see just the sort of cretins you were getting yourself mixed up with. But there's no time for that now because you did marry her, you did surrender your life's goals and dreams in deference to spending time with people you don't really like, and you're now daydreaming that it all could have been so different—so much better—if you had only chosen the alternate ending all those years ago. Well, you didn't and now you've just lost another two hours of your life watching The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch.
Ah…but what if you were to play it backwards?
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Bonus Interviews
Review content copyright © 2005 Dennis Prince; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.