John Cleese never seems to tire of playing the same role. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, as it pretty much guarantees fun-filled slapstick frolics of the slightly adult kind.

Clockwise provides yet another example of Cleese, typecast as the bumbling fool, who gets himself into a sticky mess, not dissimilar to his alter ego, Basil Fawlty, from the successful BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers.

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Here, he plays headmaster Brian Stimpson, who is merely trying to get from Thomas Tompion Comprehensive School to Norwich, in order to give a speech to fellow headmasters. Trouble ensues once he catches the wrong train and is left to find his own way there.

What follows is an hour-and-a-half of routine gags that sees the troubled teacher kidnapping a student and an old school friend, stealing a car and impersonating a monk. The question on everyone's lips is, will he make it to the conference on time and if he does, how will he explain his behavior to the parents of the kidnapped student, the mother of his old friend, his wife with three old ladies in tow, the music teacher from his school, some monks and various ranks of policemen, who anxiously await his arrival?

As with most British films, the supporting cast is terrific, particularly Stephen Moore as the suspicious-looking music teacher and Sharon Maiden as the young student. Alison Steadman also pulls out all the stops as Stimpson's disgruntled wife who becomes convinced that her husband is having an affair. Without such terrific characters, Cleese's jokiness might be all-together too much to handle

Over the years, Clockwise has become a much loved film, almost solely because of Cleese's ability to make even the most hard hearted of people feel sorry for him. For fans of JC, this is a definite must.

Reviewed on: 12 Jun 2002
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Clockwise packshot
A clockwatching teacher goes on the journey from hell to try to give a speech.
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Director: Christopher Morahan

Writer: Michael Frayn

Starring: John Cleese, Penelope Wilton, Alison Steadman, Stephan Moore, Sharon Maiden

Year: 1986

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK

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