By: Trevor Chartrand
As far as unnecessary sequels are concerned, Fisherman’s Friends: One and All isn’t the worst thing ever made, but there’s not a whole lot of new material here, either. Fans will find this second film feels comfortably familiar, but lacking in some of the nuance and charm of its 2020 predecessor. But despite its shortcomings, this picture does deliver in the music department – with plenty of toe-tapping sea shanties to clap along to.
In One and All, the Fisherman’s Friends’ frontman Jim (James Purefoy) mourns the loss of his father/fellow bandmate, Jago (David Hayman). He’s pushed over the edge when his record label forces him to replace his dad with a new tenor – and tensions with the new singer leads to an outraged Jim quitting the band. It takes a blossoming romance for Jim to find his sea legs again, and to face life without his dad.
This sequel suffers from a serious lack of Daniel Mays, whose performance was vital to grounding the first film. Mays’ Danny character was the protagonist last time – the greedy, smart-assed music producer who ‘discovered’ the Fisherman’s Friend band on a bet. His uppity attitude and clashing chemistry with the band truly drove the previous entry in this series – he’s a perfect fish-out-of-water/straight man character to offset the gruff fisherman gang.
To replace Mays this go-round, the record label sends the aloof and goofy Gareth (Joshua McGuire) to manage the band in his stead. He’s a similar character, sure, but his broad performance feels less subtle, and much less real. McGuire essentially spends the film’s runtime winking at the camera as if to say, ‘aren’t I zany?’
Fisherman’s Friends director Chris Foggin did not return for this installment either, which is instead helmed by the co-directorial team of Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft – the writers of both films. Foggin, I suspect, breathed a real-world charm into the first film. As directors, Leonard and Moorcraft lean heavily into the absurdity of their jokes, possibly a side effect of also having written them.
A stand-out example of over-the-top cringe in this film comes during an audition scene to replace a member of the band. The joke – or rather the attempted joke – is that each audition is more ridiculous and terrible than the last. It’s a series of folks who can’t carry a tune making an ass of themselves, one after another. Then the spotlight shines on Mr. Humble Everyman, whose voice is angelic, perfect, in contrast. The intended laughs fall flat, landing a little too far into ‘silly’ territory.
The romance between Jim and Aubrey (Imelda May) is also standard fare. While it’s not unbearable, there’s plenty of room to yawn as viewers sit and wait for these two to just get together, already.
Ultimately, Fisherman’s Friends: One and All works just fine, and it’s fun too – for the most part. Fleeting moments of absurdity may take viewers out of the film, and the movie is missing many of the strengths that made its predecessor so great. But nevertheless, it’s still worth a watch.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor