Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose

Forget the title. The weirdest thing about Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is actually a scene buried in the end credits, during which cast and crew members talk about how much they hate director Adam Sigal and what a terrible job they think he did on the film. Is this a joke? Hard to say. Instinct says yes. Then again, there’s no obvious punchline or reason for it to be included, so who knows? Whether it’s a gag or not, the short sequence is the only thing about Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose that’s even remotely interesting or entertaining.

Simon Pegg stars as Fodor, a paranormal psychiatrist. He’s approached by an old colleague, Dr. Harry Price (Christopher Lloyd), about a bizarre situation in which a rural family claims to be in possession of an animal that can speak. Price has come to believe the claim is true but wants Fodor’s input. The skeptic makes his way to the family farm, his assistant Anne (Minnie Driver) in tow. At first, it seems like an open-and-shut case. “Gef” is never physically present, hiding behind walls or in caves instead. And since the daughter in the clan is a skilled ventriloquist, Fodor is certain she’s secretly providing the voice he hears. The longer he’s there, though, the more he starts to wonder because everyone in the town is enraptured by Gef.

As is perhaps obvious, Nandor Fodor wants to be a metaphor for religious faith. It asks the question, Can you believe in the existence of something you can’t see and have no solid evidence of simply because a lot of other people steadfastly believe in it? I suppose a good movie could be made from that premise, just as a good movie could theoretically be made from any premise. This is not a good movie.

For starters, it’s not funny. The inherent wackiness of the title and the concept of a talking mongoose promises fast-paced comedy. The film is actually slow, with long scenes of characters spouting overwritten, not-as-witty-as-it-thinks-it-is dialogue. Not a single event happens that’s fun or surprising. A one-joke structure doesn’t help. Fodor hears Gef but grows frustrated because he never sees him. That idea is repeated again and again, to the point where any potential comedic value is sucked dry.

Not even the performances work. The usually reliable Simon Pegg uses a distracting fake voice and gives a turn full of annoying mannerisms. Minnie Driver is given a blank character to work with, causing her to flounder for something to do in her scenes. Once or twice, the story throws in a connotation that Anne is secretly in love with her employer, although nothing comes of it. Sigal doesn’t stage scenes well, either. He’s got several talented actors at his disposal, yet he can’t capture any magic between them. The whole picture is flat and lethargic.

Given the low quality level of Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose, perhaps it really is possible that everyone despises the director. Maybe they’ve seen the finished product. Regardless, when the people who made the movie tell you it stinks – in jest or for real – you’re wise to listen, just to be on the safe side.

out of four

Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is rated PG-13 for strong language, smoking throughout, and brief partial nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.