The 2007 novel by Paul Torday that this film adapts was, by all accounts, a deliciously funny satire of New Labour spin-doctoring, written in the form of emails, diary entries, memos, interview transcripts, even feasibility studies. It was also at its heart a story of the triumph of self-belief over cynicism.
The adaptation, by Simon Beaufoy, is a cheesy love story rescued only by a scenery-chomping turn from Scott Thomas as Patricia Maxwell, a government PR maven with a shark's charm and bite to match.
McGregor plays fisheries expert Dr Fred Jones who is meant to have Asperger's syndrome but just seems like a fish geek. Dragooned into overseeing the establishment of the title's fishery because, as Maxwell puts it, "we need a bit of Anglo-Arab news that isn't about things that explode", he finds himself partnered with the magnificently monikered Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt), the representative of a Yemeni sheikh (Waked), who has a Scottish estate and desert fly-fishing dreams.
You may think you know how things turn out between the fish doctor and Miss Double-Barrel (as well as the establishment of the fishery), but you can have no idea quite how hamfistedly it is handled.
The shame of it is that, behind the blancmange exterior, the film has - or might have had - a poetic heart. It's located in the chest of the sheikh, a man who believes that fishing inculcates "patience, tolerance and humility". But Hallstrom fritters away his potential as a character by making him the target of a laughable assassination plot.
An honest adaptation would probably have had a limited reach, but this version just betrays a good idea. It has the whiff of a script written by a focus group and it's hard to imagine that even they would have been impressed.
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Running time: 107 mins
Rating: M (offensive language)
Verdict: Satirical potential diluted into cheesy romcom.
-TimeOutBy Peter Calder Email Peter