Compared with the delightful, sexy and wildly inventive miniseries “Viva Blackpool,” this movie follow-up is a significant letdown — a broader spoof that’s more over the top than its predecessor, much to its detriment. Again mixing gritty reality with impromptu karaoke-type musical numbers showcasing the tunes of Johnny Cash and Tom Jones, among others, “Ripley’s Return” delivers moments of fanciful charm but, all things considered, would have been better off letting Ripley RIP.
Essentially using “The Maltese Falcon” as its template, the movie finds entrepreneur-gambler Ripley Holden (David Morrissey) having returned from Las Vegas, where the original story dumped him after excess cost him his marriage and dreams of a big score. Now the Reverend Ripley, plying his trade at a wedding factory, he hooks up with a jilted bride, Kitty De-luxe (Megan Dodds), and gets drawn into the search for an invaluable artifact — in this case, a missing 1960s World Cup trophy sought by a sleazy sports agent (Keith Allen).
Ripley falls hard for the alluring Kitty (whose name doubtless evokes a certain “Goldfinger” femme fatale), leading to a series of musically scored romantic interludes, even if it’s fairly obvious she’s motivated by lusts that go beyond our hapless hero. Yet despite the whimsy in Peter Bowker’s premise, the musical sequences lack the same choreographed snap, crackle and pop that characterized the first “Blackpool” — a Golden Globe nominee — missing its novelty as well as its co-stars, Sarah Parish and David Tennant.
Indeed, while Morrissey remains a kick to watch as this character, the rest of the cast is less impressive — beginning with Dodds, who overplays her role as a breathless Marilyn Monroe knockoff who’s amusing for about five minutes and then becomes tedious. Ripley’s daughter Shyanne (Georgia Taylor) is also back, but with little to do.
“Blackpool” certainly struck a nerve, and CBS has even anted up for a hard-to-picture U.S. version (“CSI: Blackpool,” perhaps?). Instead of the miniseries’ murder whodunit, however, what finally emerges here is a rather wan mystery dogged by the rather crass feel of a by-the-numbers sequel designed to cash in on the “Blackpool” name without matching its inspiration.
Actually, that’s a cynical concept Ripley might embrace, but it’s hardly the kind of exercise to motivate an audience to smile, much less sing and dance along with it.