Directed by Chris Quick and co-written with Andy S. McEwan, a follow up to 2012’s The Greyness of Autumn, puppets Danny and Nelson are back and while one causes havoc, the other tries to find love and deal with his mental health issues. Lead by the voices of director Quick as Nelson and Duncan Airlie James as Danny, with Nicolette McKeown, Lynn Murray, Neil Francis, Amy Ebbutt, Ray Crofter and Alan Cuthbert.
Several have tried to make an adult puppet film (that is to say a film for adults because the other definition is not something anyone needs to see) and it’s rarely successful but it’s safe to say that Autumn Never Dies is a delightful exception. Choosing to open on such a serious and sombre event to introduce the puppet characters was unexpected but a fantastic choice and a clever way to bring in the comedy without actually having to immediately say anything. Of course, the dialogue very quickly dives into the humour and it’s completely consistent from start to finish, there’s no lag, it’s just a constant barrage of jokes.
The story is done in such a way that for the most part, nothing about it goes outside of the entirely human, it could easily be something happening to your average guy, it perfectly just adds a joke or one-liner every so often that only applies to them as puppets. It’s so brilliantly casual about the fact that they’re a monkey and an ostrich that it works utterly well, there’s no need to overly handle it, they’re treated like people and again, adds humour without needing to outwardly say anything. The puppets are so low-tech that you’d imagine they would almost be distracting but in fact, it works perfectly well, it’s one of the occasions where sticking to the basics was the best choice. What particularly makes it work is the writing, it’s full of personality and fun, it’s well balanced between Nelson simply not giving a crap about anything and Danny being extremely introverted and vulnerable, which is not something you think you’d say about puppets. Not to mention that it’s genuinely hilarious and provides several laugh out loud moments throughout. A mark of the quality of writing, is the brief detour that they take from the story to take a couple shots at cliched American TV shows and throw in a nice quick Kickstarter joke, it’s simple but completely relevant and adds a good variety to the film.
Quite possibly the biggest highlight is the voice acting of the lead actors as their monkey and ostrich counterparts, particularly Quick as Nelson, so often comedies try to create characters like this who are devil-may-care and have little thought to anyone else’s opinion but it actually rarely works as well as it does here. Nelson is not a good guy and he’s just out for a good time, as chimps are probably want to do and he does so in a fashion that’s pleasure to watch because he’s basically Ted but Scottish and 90% less gross. Then there’s Danny voiced by James, he may be an ostrich but he’s completely sympathetic, he’s just a guy going through relationship and mental health issues that almost anyone could relate to, it’s an impressive feat that this comes through remarkably natural in spite of him being portrayed by a puppet.
Autumn Never Dies really capitalises on the home movie nostalgia, it holds that strong air of friends having fun and doing something funny for the camera but then taking it to the next level and making it feel professional. It’s as if you tried to make a film about Sooty but took Father Ted for inspiration, it’s different and succeeds where so many have failed in the past with adult comedy puppetry. If you took the same story but had actual people acting out the lead parts, it wouldn’t be as funny because the addition of puppets pushes things to a stronger level of comedy, it also brings a whole new meaning to shadow puppets but no spoilers, so you’ll have to find out why for yourselves.
The film comes across as though the filmmakers had a great time making it, that sense of fun permeates the entire thing and adds a fantastic level of energy. It’s funny from start to finish and finding a film with genuine laugh out loud moments is surprisingly difficult these days but this film is hilarious.