Film Review: ‘Breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson’

Adapted by Chris England from his own 2006 stage comedy of the same name and hoping to recapture some of the magic of the England Rugby World Cup win of a decade ago, director Simon Sprackling’s Breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson (2013) has chest-thumping, flag-waving patriotism down to a T. Unfortunately, its rowdy band of rugby-obsessed stock characters inject precious little life into an unremarkable Britcom that swings towards the lowest common denominator a few too many times to really sustain interest. At its very worst, Sprackling’s second feature is as stale as a pub carpet the morning after the night before.

It’s the morning of the 2003 Rugby World Cup final with England facing Australia, and Greyhawks RC chairman Dave (Norman Pace, one half of comic duo Hale and Pace) is opening up for what promises to be a bumper day of business. As the regulars begin to trickle in, including prodigious young hopeful Jake (George MacKay) and women’s team captain Nina (Beth Cordingly), Dave looks forward to forgetting the precarious position the club is in due to a dispute over land ownership. However, when loud and proud Aussie fitness instructor Matt (Michael Beckley) turns up, crate of Fosters in hand to cheer on his beloved Wallabies, it soon transpires that more is at stake this morning than simply England’s hopes for silverware.

Also thrown into the mix are father-to-be Nigel (Four Lions’ Nigel Lindsay), snooping newshound Bill Exley (writer England in a cameo role) and, most troublingly, an Australian ‘honeypot’ in the form of Gina Varela’s gym owner Lena. Introduced via a series of leering shots of her Lycra-clad body, ‘tart with a heart’ Lena’s sole function appears to be as a focal point for the male gaze, whether she’s slipping into the shower with the sheepish Jake or bending over in one of his occasional World Cup fantasies. MacKay, a rising British star after impressive turns in Paul Wright’s For Those in Peril and apocalyptic drama How I Live Now, is similarly wasted here as the gormless teen who believes his kicks to be supernaturally linked to those of the titular Wilkinson.

It’s not particularly difficult to see why England’s stage play took so long to reach the big screen (though, now that it’s arrived, whether it belongs there at all is another question). As with Ray Cooney and John Luton’s atrocious Danny Dyer-starring farce Run for Your Wife (2012), Breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson’s egg-chasing, sexist antics belong to a bygone era, and have now been rendered redundant by superior offerings from the Chris Morrises and Ben Wheatleys of the British film industry. Much like Lindsay’s womanising Nigel, Sprackling’s weightless comedy should have been put out to pasture rather than wheeling itself out in the vain hope of reliving past glories.

Daniel Green

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