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The Wind in the Willows Review

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★★★★★

According to Terry Jones, Kenneth Grahame's classic children's novel has never been adapted for the big screen due to the constraints of the material (i.e. messing about on the river doesn't make for scintilating filmmaking). However, by tweaking the story slightly, making it more 90s, he has produced an uneven but well-meaning effort that will doubtless delight younger viewers and perhaps annoy their parents in equal measures.

For those who failed to have a brush with the book as a kid, The Wind In The Willows kicks off with Mole (Coogan) being turfed out of his home by bulldozer activity. Having been rescued by best bud Ratty (Idle), a blazered rodent who likes nothing better than a picnic by the river, the pair get mixed up with local aristocrat Toad Of Toad Hall (Jones), whose penchant for crashing cars lands him in hot water when a villainous gang of weasels (led by Antony Sher) try to get him out of his ancestral stately home.

This remains fairly faithful to the book, although Jones' attempts to appeal to a computer-age audience - meagre technical effects, a weasel hip-hop number, a brace of innuendo, lots of people being hit over the head with blunt objects - reveal the film's low-budget origins all too clearly.

Luckily, the leads lend the tale a great deal of jollity, while blink-and-you'll-miss-'em cameos from a cavalcade of Brit comedians (Stephen Fry, John Cleese, Victoria Wood, etc.) more than make up for any shortcomings. Far from perfect, then, but it'll make for a pleasant enough half-term diversion nevertheless.

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