Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman, Benedict Hardie
Director: Mirrah Foulkes
Running Time: 105 mins
Judy And Punch is an Australian film about the story of puppeteers Punch and Judy who, while working in an isolated and backwards countryside town on their show, find themselves in a grisly series of events.
A black reimagining of the classic seaside children’s puppet show, Judy And Punch is as deliciously dark as you can imagine, featuring an immensely enjoyable mix of hilarious black comedy and intriguing, unsettling drama throughout. Couple that with a really striking period setting that both looks pretty and plays a unique role in the story, as well as two great lead performances, and you’ve got a brilliantly unorthodox hit, and one of the most unashamedly entertaining dark comedies you’ve seen in quite a long while.
Of course, dark reimaginings of classic fairytales, children stories and such have been in fashion for a good few years now, but they almost always seem to be hijacked by dull, grim blockbuster ideas. Take a film like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters as an example, which has a brilliantly weird premise, and seems to open up all the opportunities for a hilarious and exciting dark comedy, but is suffocated under the spectre of predictable, dumb and excessively action-oriented filmmaking.
Judy And Punch, on the other hand, is a far more measured and intelligent approach to a dark reimagining of the classic puppet show. Not only impressing throughout with its genuinely hilarious humour, the film is a thoroughly engrossing watch thanks to its intelligent and unique ideas surrounding not only the origins of the eponymous puppet show, but also the medieval world of witch hunts.
It’s an unorthodox but genuinely entertaining combination that works really well right the way through, only helped more by the film’s capacity for humour and to take what at times does feel like a rather dark and even unsettling tale a little lighter than you may expect, and seems to be the case in so many other films of the same ilk.
As a result, there’s complex and intriguing ideas at play that go far beyond what at times eventually boils down to a rather simple revenge story, and it really makes a vibrant world out of the setting created for the origins of Punch & Judy, furthered yet more by the excellent costume and production design and cinematography that make such a vivid portrayal out of this isolated medieval town, all brought together in brilliant style by director Mirrah Foulkes.
And finally, on top of all of that, you’ve got a pair of great lead performances from Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman as Judy and Punch themselves. Finding a fantastic balance between pure, crazed comedy and heavy, dark drama (something that is absolutely no mean feat), the pair are great to watch from beginning to end, and although they find their characters dealing with very different obstacles throughout, they’re an excellent double act that play off one another with just as much humour and domestic unhappiness as the famous puppets themselves.
Overall, then, I had a great time with Judy And Punch. An unexpected surprise that takes an unorthodox angle on a well-known property, the film is full of both fantastically funny humour and exciting dark drama, brought together brilliantly by director Mirrah Foulkes with interesting and intelligent ideas that bring its story and setting to life in vibrant fashion, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.0.