‘Feeble and Unfunny’: CyOn Reviews New Eared Steve | Lydia Trethewey

I for one, would pay to see Rowan Atkinson as a comic book villain.

‘Feeble and Unfunny’: CyOn Reviews New Eared Steve

By Lydia Trethewey

For the NEW EARED STEVE award


Review: New Eared Steve
[No Spoilers]

Steve’s down on his luck. His boss hates him, his daughter’s entered the screaming, tear-stained acrobatics of adolescence, and his wife has begun gravely hinting that she wants more out of life than a poky flat in Peckham and a husband whose backbone’s receded with his hairline.

Oh and, of course, a fanatical group of supervillains bent on taking over the world is about to complete their terrifying new doomsday device, a machine that turns ordinary people into mindless zombies. Why not?

Simon Pegg plays Steve, the good-hearted underdog whose constant fuck-ups provide a steady stream of lukewarm comedy whilst the main plot staggers about drunkenly from one point of absurdity to another. Steve knows his life’s grinding to a halt, knows he’s the wallflower, the background music. He listens in from the sidelines as life passes by, ears pressed to the keyhole as his wife (Samantha White) talks on the phone about their disintegrating marriage. Cut to The Fiend (Rowan Atkinson, dressed in so much CGI), pacing about his lair high in the mountains in a vaguely Russian-sounding country. It’s enough to give any viewer vertigo, the wrenching between scenes of almost-realness to the Disney technicolour of parodic fantasy.

Heralded (before its release) as Britain’s sarcastic reply to the recent success of Marvel movies (Avengers et al.), New Eared Steve takes self-immolation as a starting point for building a character whose heroics are thrust upon him in the form of super-sensitive hearing. Perhaps intended as a vague counterpoint or ironic consequence to his fly-on-the-wall listening in on people’s conversations (his wife, his daughter), how this power might counteract The Fiend’s dastardly mind-control device must have been a point of contention for the writers, who never seemed to settle on a single explanation (‘brain waves enter through the ears’ stammers poor Steve, watching his teenage daughter stare gormlessly into zombie-space). Perhaps the hope was that close scrutiny of important plot-points would get waylaid amongst the big-eared-British jokes and awkward dialogue about what it means to be a hero.

Suspension of disbelief is stretched beyond its limits in this movie, in which no explanation is given for why Steve is imbued with super-hearing, and the way in which his path crosses with the supervillains (coincidental in the extreme, contrived at its heart) leaves the viewer blinking as if having been slapped in the face with the insulting notion that they simply wouldn’t question it.

This lacklustre comedy(?) wouldn’t be complete without a cringe-worthy pun, and that comes in the title. Of course, as Steve the chronic fuck-up tries to turn around life with his family and friends, and as global zombification becomes imminent, it’s approaching that time of resolutions and self-improvement, New Year’s Eve. Get it? New Year’s Eve, New Eared Steve? If you think the feebleness of that attempted play on words might make you physically sick, watch out, because it’s lurking behind almost every joke from the ear-enhancement scene onwards.

As in Absolutely Everything (2015), Pegg manages to bring a little life to this awkwardly cobbled together comedy-superhero-family-drama-self-help movie and at times the character of Steve is almost endearing, at the least palatable. The revelation at the end (spoilers, but then how could you spoil this movie) that the Fiend’s doomsday device simply makes people mindlessly buy consumer products (a jab here at Apple in particular) was able to generate some genuine laughter, though perhaps that was in relief that the film was nearing its end. New Eared Steve definitely misses the mark for substance, hampered rather than helped by the split between absurdity and reality, passing by (much like Steve in the early parts of the film) without leaving much of an imprint.

Rating: Two and a half stars, mediocre. Watch only if afflicted with zombie mindlessness.

Navigation: Short Stories | Lydia Trethewey Feature Interview | Stories Lydia Trethewey | Lydia’s Website