2010 – Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Directing and Best Lead Actor
Now, I’ve seen John Wayne’s The Cowboys, and in that movie John Wayne cures a kid’s stutter by yelling at him and getting the kid to yell back and swear. Boom! Stutter is gone, and the kid stands there crying and going, “I did it! I did it!” It took maybe two minutes, freeing up precious time for action, adventure, and the adorable kids dragging Bruce Dern to death behind a horse.
But in this movie, speech therapist Captain Hector Barbossa (Jeffery Rush) doesn’t cure the stutter of King George VI (Colin Farrell) in 118 minutes of screen time, OR in the several years over which the movie takes place. He gives him some pointers, has him do exercises, and talks about his childhood, but at the end of the movie the King gives a speech that still isn’t very good. Maybe he got better afterward, but we don’t get to see it.
The other thing that bothered me was that this had the flavor of a “buddy” movie like Lethal Weapon: You’ve got the stiff, pompous King and the goofy, eccentric Barbossa. It’s perfect. But they miss so many great moments that could have improved the film. There isn’t a single scene where Barbossa makes a crack about how all the guys at the office are attracted to the King’s wife or daughter. The King doesn’t once bellow, “Will you cut that out!” There’s no character called “the Chief.”
The movie does have TWO “buddies have a fight” scenes, but neither one ends up with them getting into a fistfight a la Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David in They Live. When the King finds out that Barbossa isn’t technically a doctor, the Captain gets him really riled up. I was thinking that a Cowboys moment was incoming. Maybe they were going to start throwing haymakers right in the middle of Westminster Abbey and the scene would end with them bloody and battered, clothing torn, but gradually breaking into chuckles and giving each other big manly hugs. The whole thing would have been a gambit by Barbossa to get the King to express himself. But nothing like that happens.
Another “buddy” movie moment they missed was sticking it to the Archbishop, who should ideally have been played by Shooter McGavin or the jerk reporter from Die Hard. He actively sabotages their friendship, and in the end he gets away with it. I think there needed to be a scene where Barbossa’s kids run amok in Westminster. The Archbishop could get so frustrated that HE starts to stutter, and Barbossa has to cure him. Sort of like when the chief elf gets a toothache in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Another thing I kept hoping for was for Winston Churchill to have a farting scene. Really, the actor didn’t look a thing like Churchill. He was more like super fat Alfred Hitchcock. Looking at him, you could just feel that, at any moment, he’d let loose. Just to prove that he’s a down-to-earth, likable guy. He could have done it when Neville Chamberlain was standing behind him at the end. The room would go silent for a moment, and Churchill would say over his shoulder, “Sorry about that, old boy,” and Chamberlain would do a slow burn because it reeks like Hell and cigar smoke.
The scene that really got me thinking was when the King sees a newsreel of Hitler giving a speech. You can tell that, even though he’s a Nazi bastard, the King envies Hitler’s speaking ability. The movie should have ended with a speech-off between the two characters. Hitler would really mop the floor with the King, but while he’s gloating, the King politely taps him on the shoulder, turns him around, and beats the shit out of him. He could say something like, “Make a speech about that, you Nazi s-s-s-son of a bitch.” Then – forget about the Archbishop – Hitler gets a stutter because he can’t believe a weak Englishman beat him. He can’t give any more Nazi rally speeches for the rest of the war, so England gets the upper hand and wins.
I find it hard to believe this movie won an Oscar for “Best Screenplay” when it missed so many golden opportunities.