Sex Lives Of The Potato Men was mocked before it even came out due to its all round rubbish name, and upon its release the knives were out and boy had they been sharpened for the reviews were vicious, of the kind where critics seemed genuinely angry at what had been shoved in front of their eyes. But with a cast that includes Johnny Vegas, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis, Julia Davis and Mark Gatiss, could it really be that bad?
Thus I went in with an open mind, but jesus, the film does its best to close it firmly shut within the opening four minutes as “Ace of Spades” plays over the opening credits and Dave (Johnny Vegas) variously makes a wanker sign at a driving instructor, pretends watermelons are breasts, and, er, throws away an apple for some unknown reason, while Ferris (Mackenzie Crook) imagines that a carrot is a penis, has sex with a woman who works in a chip shop, and we see that their van has “I wish my wife was this dirty” written on it. It’s lewd, crude, and wouldn’t have been funny in the seventies back when rampant sexism and bland bawdiness were immensely popular.
Despite this weak beginning I tried not to dislike the film, I really did, but the script is so bad it’s impossible not to, what with the way it starts with Ferris bragging about how ever since his wife’s “fucked off” his life is a dream, and that “My life now is one big fanny festival, I don’t care if they’re black, white, yellow or purple I’d shag anyone” only for Dave to wonder who’s purple. Ferris thinks the answer’s “Martians”, and, er, yeah, me neither.
Dave and Ferris deliver potatoes for a living, and back at their base their colleague Tolly (Dominic Coleman) goes on about how his wife used to like “strawberry jam on her twat” so that he’d perform oral sex on her, and due to this he’s addicted to the taste of “fanny juice and strawberries”, and in an attempt to replicate it he has strawberry jam and fish paste sandwiches. If your response to such a joke is “Fucking hell” then it was remarkably subdued compared to mine, and then the film becomes more depressing as Ferris talks about how a woman liked to rim him but then snog him, and that she probably likes shit in her sandwiches.
After this Ferris visits his mother-in-law Joan (Kate Robbins) and she throws herself at him, all but forcing him to allow her to give him a blow job, and the next day Ferris moans about the incident. It’s almost as if writer / director had taken a course on how to make characters appallingly unlikeable, and if he did he must have come away with an A grade as then Dave complains that it has been two years since his last blowjob from wife Vicky, because grim nonsense like this is what you want from a comedy, right? Even unfunnier is a trip to the pub that sees them meet Phil and talk about honey and bees and wasps for about two minutes, where I thought I was going a bit mad and hallucinating this idiocy, there’s a pay off later on in the film but as with every single other fucking thing in the movie, it’s not funny that’s for sure. A jarring leap to Dave’s home follows as his wife Vicky complains about Dave not being a proper Dad and how he’s rarely at home, claiming “You’re not behaving like a human being”, which also describes every single character in the film so far, before throwing him out, which is the one and only moment in the movie which makes sense.
We’re then introduced to Jeremy (Mark Gatiss), Dave and Ferris’s boss and he’s a despicable piece of shit too as it turns out though he claims he’s still in a relationship, his girlfriend Ruth (Lucy Davis) doesn’t want anything to do with him and keeps on telling him to fuck off. It’s all the more irritating as Jeremy initially seemed like a vaguely appealing character for the first two minutes or so, but oh no, we can’t have any of them in the film, and that’s compounded with a scene where he’s written a poem to Ruth which contains the line “The clear shafts of sun penetrate your moist fanny with my stiff meaty love rocket”.
I’m aware at this point that I’m basically describing every scene and almost every line of dialogue but it’s due to being in shock at just how hateful this fucking mess is. But rather than continuing to go in to so much detail, and this review being the length of a novel, the following is a selection of the horrendous lowlights that followed, but read on at your peril as somehow the film manages to become unfunnier by the second.
So among the truly depressing and ugly attempts at humour are: Dave trying to climb a railing for ages, and it’s funny because he’s fat! Because fat people are funny you see! Hahahahaha! And also: Tolly phones a sex line and masturbates while licking a sandwich, and twist! Dave is reluctantly sat next to him the whole time! Then in a scene which is genuinely inexplicable Dave tells a young kid that his dad’s dead! Plus a short while later we get to see Jeremy spy on Ruth but then he spots a woman in the flat above her in her bra and so he starts masturbating!
At this point I would have quit the movie if it wasn’t for the purpose of writing this review, and I only hope it stops anyone from seeing it as it is just despicable shittiness of the worst order. I’m aware my tearing it apart and describing how bad it is might even tempt some in to giving it a shot too, but please, don’t, as if you have the same reaction to it as I did you’ll feel not only depressed but oddly violent.
How I wish I had stopped though, as then I wouldn’t have witnessed Dave having a threesome with a woman called Poppy and another man, with the camera zooming in on Dave’s anguished face time and again. I’d also have escaped witnessing Mackenzie Crook all but raped by a woman in a chip shop and her angry husband masturbating to this scene, Tolly getting in to an argument with a prostitute in a brothel after refusing to pay two hundred quid for her to carry out his bizarre requests, Jeremy’s new girlfriend Shelley (Julia Davis) cover a house in dog shit, and once popular but now all but forgotten tv presenter Adrian Chiles in an orgy. And I swear I’m not making this up, I’m truly not, this is a film which every time you think can’t get any more horrible does its absolute best to prove you wrong, and it succeeds as well.
It limps to an end with Dave forgiven by his wife for absolutely no reason, and it’s a completely undeserved win for the character who has done nothing to suggest he’ll change, indeed the opposite applies as he’s moved in with Ferris’s mother-in-law Joan and is receiving more oral sex than he can cope with. Then the very final scene sees Tolly, Dave and Ferris talking about their first ever wank, and going on about how porn is the best type of film, before Jeremy walks in, asks “Has anyone seen my dog?” and Tolly looks guilty. Which of course makes no sense at all, but why I thought it might is clearly my own fault because this is a film clearly written by a shit with no regard for who might eventually watch it.
Though Jeremy interacts briefly with Dave and Ferris for most of the film his antics feel like a completely different film, though it’s naturally not a better film, just one separate from the others. It does contain the only hint of a narrative that the film has though, otherwise this is just a selection of sketches as these pathetic men have a surprising amount of sex with women who in real life would no doubt want to decapitate them.
Apart from Lucy Davis and Julia Davis, who luckily for them are barely in the film and only get a few lines each, all of the female characters are sex obsessed monsters who demand to be satisfied and don’t give a fuck about the men in their lives, and it has a quite disturbing view of women in general. Not that men come off any better, all are portrayed as sex mad shits, but the difference is that we’re supposed to like them, supposed to root for them, but you won’t be able to even if you were Johnny Vegas and Mackenzie Crook’s biggest fans beforehand.
Given that the film is seventy nine minutes long you’d think that there must be a couple of funny moments, right? And to be honest there is one, as a very polite conversation between Dave and his potential threesome partner Kevin is vaguely amusing as they talk about the parking outside of the building instead of anything sex related. But it’s a very brief scene in the film, and the rest of it is abhorrent grimness of the unfunniest variety.
I truly can’t understand how Humphries managed to get such a great cast on board for the film, as it’s not like they were unknowns when this was made. Crook and Davis were fresh off of the massive success of The Office, Vegas had an acclaimed stand up career and had starred in the sitcom Happiness, while Gatiss had received a huge amount of plaudits for his part in The League Of Gentlemen, so I’m genuinely flabbergasted that any of them appeared in this putrid mess.
Some of the negativity might seem like hyperbole but this truly is one of the most painful experiences of my life. Every time I thought it couldn’t get any worse there’d be a line like “I don’t want to sound like a complete poof but I used to like talking to my wife” or a scene which is equally as bleak, like the one where Mackenzie Crook is all but blackmailed in to showing his penis to a very old woman, and there were several points where I almost felt like crying.
This is a miserable, bleak attempt at comedy then, created by someone who I think might hate humanity and wanted to subject them to something so awful that it’d put them off sex and comedy for life, and potatoes for that matter too, the evil bastard. The one and only film writer / director Andy Humphries has ever written he’s since moved on to making documentaries rather than being thrown in to prison for the rest of his life, but he really should have been as I’ve genuine concerns that after watching this I might never laugh again. And fine, that last bit is hyperbole, but only very, very slightly.
1/10 of a ★ (because giving it a 0 star review wouldn’t make sense. Possibly.)