Hollyoaks: The Movie

Monday, December 11, 2000 by

Sending a soap opera abroad usually portends either a dramatic dĂ©nouement to a ridiculously long-running story-line, or the beginning of a sudden, new, unexpected plot which just happens to come about thanks to the exotic balmy location (see EastEnders‘ various European vacations). However this special 90-minute edition of Hollyoaks was different. It simply transferred ongoing story-lines to a new setting, let them unravel yet further, and at the end of it all packed them all up and took them back home. And this strategy worked really well: it allowed those familiar storylines to breathe a bit easier and fuller, thanks to the late time slot (10pm) and expanded running time. No absurdly shock revelations or hammy twists waiting round the corner here – and all the better for it.

Instead we had a bunch of the cast jetting off to a chilly-looking Barcelona for a stag weekend. Luckily this group included some of the very best Hollyoaks characters – Luke, Finn, Max, OB – but sadly some of the very worst – principally Tony, plus the unfailingly irritating Carol. And although the whole thing was presented as a conventional spin-off – Finn announcing to the rest of the gang (and us) “Whatever happens in Barcelona stays in Barcelona …”, all of the series’ perennial concerns reared their heads: Lewis’ affairs (business and emotional); Tony’s schemes to ruin Finn’s marriage; and Max & OB’s raging libido. Note: these lads have a permanent hard-on, which has at least made for an amusing stream of Carry On gags over the past few weeks of the “something’s come up” variety. Other regulars along for the ride included Luke, star of the first Hollyoaks late nighter earlier in the year, but this time in very much a secondary role (getting pissed, mostly).

It all made for a highly entertaining hour and a half. The somewhat ludicrous nature of the scrapes and mini-crises the characters contrived to find themselves in were more than compensated for by that one element which sets Hollyoaks up above all other soap operas: its humour. The cast is lucky to boast a fair few fine comic actors who handle both verbal and visual jokes superbly well: the obvious duo of Max (Matt Littler) and OB (Darren Jeffries) who must be given their own spin-off show sooner or later, together with the more laconic, rasping wit of Finn (James Redmond). He is a great creation, whose response to people questioning his decision to marry someone almost twice his age is invariably an amusingly offensive insult or dry wisecrack.

With the comic lines came comic situations (sometimes verging on the tragicomic) all meticulously well-structured into an unfolding sequence of mayhem. So we had fights with the locals, endless boozing, cross-dressing, an obligatory chase round the back-streets, stolen money, compromising photos, drinking competitions, impotency, nicked transit vans, endless interrupted sexual liaisons, wild leaps off the side of cruise ships, child abduction, an arrow up the arse and a blow job from a transvestite.

Best of all, however, was loads of swearing. Where to begin? “Hello? Earth to dickhead?” “My arse is really stinging.” “Old soft-bollocks here.” Perhaps best of all, though, was the long-overdue re-appearance on telly of the seminal “Knobhead!” OK, so it’s cheap and obvious, a self-indulgence merited by the late hour; but it’s still great to hear the characters freed by the watershed and able to say what you think they so really want to say at 6.30pm but sadly can’t.

Some of the goings-on were handled quite sensitively and with subtlety – Max’s coyness about his hitherto lack of sexual stamina resolved in a sympathetic way rather than via a giant orgasm of bravado and triumphalism. There was also time for discussion of the ongoing recuperation of Luke following his court case, with hints of just how unresolved and unsettled his feelings still are to everyone around him.

Lewis meanwhile is clearly heading for his decline and fall, with the appearance on the scene of his lover Lorraine, even wooing and bedevilling his every move out here in another country. Significantly, as with the other mini-storylines, this entanglement wasn’t wrapped up in the 90 minutes – far from it: the drama will simply pick up once more next time, back in that quiet suburb of Chester.

This was an entirely justified, hugely entertaining and well-made episode, excellently written by Allan Swift and directed by Peter Rose. The trip abroad seemed well worth it – and even better, the action wasn’t limited to three or four main settings (i.e. The bar. The bedroom. The cafĂ©.) Thanks to that famous efficiency of Mersey Television, the drama ranged from the top of castles, football stadiums, alleyways, restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels down to the seafront and dockside. A fine advert for the city – if not for its people, who were portrayed as either hot-headed lotharios or Godfather-esque schemers who all dressed in black and had greasy hair.

It’s been a great year for Hollyoaks. 1999 ended with a bus blowing up killing off one of the series’ most annoying characters (Rob) and marking the end of a troublesome era on the show. Since then there’s been one hell of a renaissance. It’s ironic that Phil Redmond’s two Channel 4 soaps have completely repositioned themselves over the last 12 months to become mirror images of each other – with the result that Hollyoaks ends 2000 utterly accomplished, commanding and mature; and Brookside trivial, childish, and pointless.


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