A British mockumentary that takes satirical measure of the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Great Britain uncovers something culturally more striking than the movie itself: The Brits are still stuck on L’Affaire Lap Dog.
By that I mean Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lockstep support of George W. Bush before and throughout the war in Iraq.
To Blair’s detractors, the PM was a yippy little Pekingese in Uncle Sam’s stars-and-stripy lap. “Lap dog” became his permanent moniker — and the operating metaphor for the U.K.’s deferential status as a world power.
“In the Loop,” created by the team that gave British viewers the award-winning BBC comedy series "Alan Partridge" and "The Thick of It," presents a farcical scenario in which one British official’s chance remark that war is “unforeseeable” all but causes a military escalation.
His comment comes right at the moment British and American interests are weighing military measures against a Certain Unnamed Nation that may possess Weapons of Mass Destruction. In a contrived comedy of errors involving clichéd dunderheads on both sides of the Atlantic, two governments find themselves heading towards a ridiculous war.
The “joke” of the movie is that the British players — particularly the PM’s dyspeptic communications director (Peter Capaldi) — are so pettily paranoid about being excluded from Washington’s planning circles, they fail to notice the stupidity of the war they’re supporting.
As for the Americans, including James Gandolfini as a boorish, vindictive general they’re essentially nincompoops, given to arrogance, moral blindness and back biting. Many of them are literally kids — twentysomethings with major political portfolios.
The notion of childish adults in positions of power — its shelf life at least as old as 1964’s “Dr. Strangelove” — might have worked if the characters weren’t tiresome little clichés. The British foreign minister (Tom Hollander) is a petty politician of small stature who feels the need to prove himself. That aforementioned communications director is a foul mouthed Scot who never met a profanity he didn’t like. (Interestingly, his boss is another foul mouthed Scot who never met a profanity he didn’t like.)
The movie doesn’t lampoon the very real tragedy of errors that led to the war in Iraq. It just draws attention to its reflexive disdain for Americans and its snarky self-righteousness — which has long become stale and antiquated.
The unintended irony here is that the movie indulges in its own kind of lap dogging. It desperately craves the approval of American art house types by mocking their uber culture. And it does so while stealing the deadpan-documentary stylings of “The Office” and the high toned lampooning of better reality-mockumentaries as Steven Soderbergh’s “K Street” series.
It offers nothing provocatively new in the way of comedy, timeliness or satire. All that remains is the sense that the Lap Dog Imbroglio is going to take some coughing, hacking — and apparently, some mediocre satire — before the British can dislodge that moral hairball from their collective gullets.