Simon Pegg in Nandor Fodor.

Film Review: Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose

Film Reviews

Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose
Director: Adam Sigal

Filmology Finance and Phantasm Films
In Theaters: 09.01

“Based on a true story” shows up a lot in films. From Elvis to Oppenheimer, audiences are pulled in by the promise of getting to see something real. Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose hardly sounds like the title of a film based on real people and real events, and yet that’s exactly what it is.

In London in 1935, Dr. Nandor Fodor (Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead, the Mission: Impossible films), a renowned (and somewhat infamous) paranormal psychologist, is approached by a colleague, Harry Price (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future, The Addams Family) about a highly unusual case. The Irvings, a family from the little hamlet of Dalby on the Isle of Man, claim to have a talking mongoose living with them. The Mongoose, who goes by Gef, has become quite the local celebrity, and many claim to have caught glimpses of him and heard his voice, though there is of course no documented proof. Price has developed a fascination with the case but is reluctant to become publicly associated with it, so he calls upon his old friend Fodor to visit the farm and report any findings. The doctor heads off for the Isle with his assistant, Anne (Minnie Driver, Good Will Hunting, Chevalier), only to be told that Gef ”doesn’t like him.” During his short stay, Fodor examines the evidence, as well as possible motives behind the hoax—if it is indeed a hoax at all.

Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is an enjoyable film based on a quirky and interesting story, and writer-director Adam Sigel (Stakeout, Chariot) creates a nice sense of atmosphere with the 1930s English setting. He’s also given it a touch of the whimsical, recalling the works of Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), particularly in the opening narration from superstar author Neil Gaiman as the voice of Gef. Unfortunately, the whimsy tends to come and go, and Sigel seems to be almost as unsure as to where he wants this to go as Fodor, who alternates wants to disprove and believe in the seemingly impossible. The result is a somewhat meandering film. The film touches on the subject of belief, why people believe in things that they can’t explain and tries to comment on whether they should. This is a question that can’t be definitively answered, and Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose can’t quite seem to decide whether or not it wants to offer an opinion on the subject.

Still, it moves briskly and remains entertaining, even if it has trouble settling on a satisfying conclusion. There’s a vague sense that Sigel was tempted to go for a more outrageous comedy and back out at the last minute, and the result is likely to be a bit too dry for some and not insightful or complete enough a story for others.

Pegg is a lot of fun in the title role, though the odd mix of New York and Hungarian accent takes some getting used to and teeters on the edge of too annoying, though Pegg has a knack for bringing enough reality and likability to even his more cartoonish characters to make it work. Driver is a joy as Anne, and the two have such a fun, offbeat chemistry that I found myself wishing that this was the first episode of a television series rather than a film because I would eagerly tune in weekly to watch these two investigate paranormal mysteries. Lloyd is delightful as Price, bringing both energy and gravity to every scene, and even just the chance to see one of the greatest character actors of the past 50 years in his element again earns the movie a recommendation.

Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose left me wanting, and it almost feels like a pitch for a movie that isn’t quite finished. It’s rare indeed that I leave a movie saying that it needed to be at least 15 minutes longer, yet Nandor Fodor could have used a bit more time to flesh things out, make bolder choices and put a proper button on the ending. I enjoyed it enough to want a sequel, and I found myself hoping that the sequel is a much more fully realized film. Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose isn’t the classic that it should have been, though If you’re willing to settle for cute and charming, it’s definitely worth a look. –Patrick Gibbs

Read more about project featuring Simon Pegg here:
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