Royston Vasey is facing destruction. On finding out that, in something called "the real world", the writers of the TV series are planning to end the programme, three of its inhabitants cross over to persuade their creators to save the town.
Connoisseurs of the League Of Gentlemen's exquisitely twisted universe will recall that the TV series began with a character from the "real" world finding himself trapped among the grotesques of Royston Vasey. It's mildly appropriate, then, that the film should invert the situation and have characters from the nightmare parish erupt into our world.
It's anything but a new idea, already seen in the likes of Pleasantville and The Brady Bunch Movie. But, it has to be said, neither of those affected the device via the ominous fulfilling of an "ancient prophecy" - namely, that "a giraffe shall spunk up over a load of old biddies".
The League's deft screenplay wisely benches the more well-known and hence slightly shopworn characters, though Tubbs and Edward, Pauline, Papa Lazarou et al all make appearances. Instead, pederast German teacher Herr Lipp, sinister butcher Hilary Briss (whose pies are "all eyelids and bumholes, but nice") and angry ex-salesman Geoff Tipps take centre stage. Extra room for invention is via a third 'reality', the 17th century - the setting for the comedy the League have supposedly ditched Royston Vasey in favour of - in which a deliciously demented David Warner camps it up as a kind of magus able to conjure bad stop-motion at a few moments' notice.
But aside from the jokes, which are well up to scratch, there are incongruously affecting moments: the characters looking bewildered at a TV which reveals them to be comic inventions; Herr Lipp being coldly informed, "You're nothing but a pun", and his desire, discovered while trying to pass himself off as his creator Steve Pemberton, to settle down with a wife and kids, all have a strange pathos.
They humanise the characters. It's a crafty strategy, as it addresses one of the film's major in-built problems. On television, the League were pretty much a working definition of 'cult viewing' and rather than widen their audience they progressively narrowed it; each season or special becoming less obviously funny and more disturbingly weird than the last. It's a sign of the League's success that, while Royston Vasey's welcome sign sinisterly promises that "you'll never leave", these characters' final return home is oddly touching.
If you're a fan it's as good as you want it to be. If you're uninitiated/ undecided, give it a go. They've lightened up since that Christmas special that gave us all nightmares.