Military Wives review – feelgood choir comedy strains in vain for laughs

Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan saddled with a by-the-numbers script in a well-meaning but hackneyed Brit flick

A military wives choir film without Gareth Malone? Isn’t that like The Witches of Eastwick without Jack Nicholson? Here is a fantasy-realist dramedy version of The Choir: Military Wives – the 2011 special edition of the BBC documentary series about empowering local communities through singing. It went out over three episodes, and brought together wives from five UK barracks, whose partners were away in Afghanistan, culminating in a moving performance at the Festival of Remembrance at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

This movie imagines a choir of military wives who miraculously achieve the same thing without the intensive professional help. Malone’s directorial/confessional role is fictionally devolved to two of the wives in charge: posh uptight Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas) and laidback but cynical Lisa (Sharon Horgan), who quarrel a lot about how to make the choir work but wind up learning from each other and becoming best friends.

Of course, this movie owes a huge amount to Brit comedies such as Calendar Girls, Brassed Off and The Full Monty (whose director, Peter Cattaneo, is at the helm here) and you could argue that Malone’s original TV format was itself influenced by these films, sneakily shaped in the edit to deliver the same sort of triumphant Hollywood ending. Military Wives is a film that means well: the moments of pathos and sadness are decently intentioned. We get a nice gag about Rocky 3, and also a very nice closing credits sequence to the accompaniment of Sister Sledge’s We Are Family, showing all the real-life military-wives choirs. But it’s basically very derivative and it’s a shame to see magnificent A-listers like Horgan and Scott Thomas working with such tame material.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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