Based on Stephen Fry’s raucous novel, The Hippopotamus is about a drunken poet who hasn’t actually written a poem in decades. Spectacularly fired from his more recent newspaper job, Ted Wallace (Roger Allam) is hired by his ex-girlfriend’s daughter Jane to investigate a mystery.
Wrangling an invitation from his godson David (Tommy Knight) to Swafford Hall, Ted’s off to the English countryside to look into a strong of recent…miracles? Jane was on her deathbed with cancer when she first went out to Swafford to convalesce in a peaceful setting. Instead, she experienced a miraculous recovery, her health and strength returning until she seemed to be in complete remission. She’s not the only one talking about these spiritual healings, so in addition to Ted, Swafford is welcoming all kinds of guests who are sneakily looking for their own miracles.
Turns out that it’s David who’s responsible for the “laying on of hands”, only he’s not just using his hands. The, erm, colourful assemblage of guests are pretty desperate and ready to swallow just about anything, so the whole household’s a twitter with whatever’s going on. Ted, ever the skeptic, is determined to get to the bottom of it. He’s sure it’s a hoax, but we’re sure he’s a drunk, bumbling fool, so who’s right?
Dubbed a “comedy of manners” it does have a distinctly English feel to it. I usually adore British comedies but I didn’t have the patience for this one. Sure there are some great zingers but it’s really kind of a mess and all the characters besides Ted are cardboard cutouts, which means tonnes of voice-over explanation is required, and that gets quite tedious. This film lacks energy and this viewer was left bored.