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Review and competition: Top Gear at the Movies

Posted on December 20, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


Top Gear at the Movies

Time for another shiny Christmas competition, courtesy of those lovely people at the BBC Shop. Go buy something from them sometime. They're quite cheap.

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At first, Top Gear At The Movies sounds like it could be quite a fun but cheap idea: clips of all the great car chase movies.

But you'd be wrong. That's not what this is.

This is Top Gear's homage to the car chase and cars in movies, in all its various forms, all done in a very Top Gear style. Let Richard Hammond and James May explain it all to you.

If you've seen an episode - or even a series - of Top Gear, you'll know the form. There's a race, a challenge, a car test, a demolition derby, a bit of talk about cars, stunts, some obviously staged scenes of schoolboy humour, some guns and some guest stars.

Here we have a race between a rally car and a guy who wears a jet engine-powered wing and dives out of helicopters; an attempt to make a James Bond car (or two) on a budget; a race between all manner of trucks used behind the scenes at the movies (e.g. ambulances, food trucks, explosives trucks); a test to find which supercar has the best rev noises for a movie soundtrack; an attempt to recreate the famous James Bond rolling car stunt from The Man With The Golden Gun; and a whole cluster of racing car and rally drivers all racing against each other.

There's also an attempt to 'recast' cars from classic movies and TV shows, asking what car would work better if the show were remade today. Bullitt got remade with a modern Ford Mustang. I'm guessing that's why for the remake of Knight Rider, the team chose something other than a Ford Mustang and pretended that there hadn't been a remake of Knight Rider just three years ago that featured… a Ford Mustang. Otherwise, that's just bad research.

The DVD looks a lot like a Top Gear episode, it feels a lot like a Top Gear episode, but there are a couple of things missing that mean that despite the pyrotechnics and obvious money spent on this, it's just not as gripping as a regular episode. These things, in no particular order, are:

  1. Actual clips from any movies
  2. Jeremy Clarkson

The first time Richard Hammond makes the gag about not having the budget to show any clips, it's reasonably funny. By about the fourth time, you're wondering what the point is. Seriously, a tribute to the movies without any movies? What's up there? They could afford it - they've just chosen not to.

Now, if they never made any references to individual films, they could have pulled it off. But to have Hammond watching the DVD of the movies (allegedly) while talking about how awesome The French Connection or Bullitt's car chases are? That just made me want to go and watch the movies instead of this DVD.

The lack of Jeremy Clarkson is also a problem. Individually, each of the Top Gear presenters really just isn't that interesting and can be dull, offensive or irritating (delete as appropriate). Stick any two of them together and the pairing just about works for a short period of time, such as part of an episode. They're not as interesting, the jokes are flatter, but they can while the time away.

Top Gear needs all three of them to work. Each of the three hosts complements the other two. That's why the show works. And the lack of Clarkson, particularly for the races and for the scenes involving a Land Rover being shot at by a 50 cal, is very clearly felt.

The highpoint of the DVD has to be the chase between a rally car and flying wing man, which is genuinely exciting, but most of the stunts and skits are just okay ways to pass the time.

At £12.99 on the BBC Shop (£12.97 on Amazon) it's not bad, but it's really just a reminder of the importance of Jeremy Clarkson. Go get the actual movies instead.

Rating: 3/5
Extras: One deleted scene involving a recasting of Mad Max. It's not bad, no better or worse than the other recasting, so there's no reason whatsoever to make it a deleted scene, other than to have a deleted scene on the DVD.

Competition time
Yes, assuming I've not put you off the whole idea, here's your chance to own the DVD. All you have to do is leave a comment on this here blog entry before 11.59pm on Friday. Don't forget to leave your email address so I can tell you that you've won. Oh, and you have to be a UK resident to enter.

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