With their parents literally eaten by lions (‘ROAR BLIMEY’, reads a tabloid headline) and their grandmother and guardian also recently deceased, Omar (Antonio Aakeel) and Pete (Jack Carroll) are sent to live with their patronising, mildly racist uncle and aunt. When it becomes clear that the couple are only interested in adopting Pete, and not his half-Asian brother Omar, the Bradford boys set off on an adventure to find Omar’s biological father – who is not living in India, as they assumed, but in Blackpool. Hilarity ensues.
Well, sort of. Eaten by Lions takes a while to get going, letting over half an hour of contrived narrative breeze past with very little of consequence happening – only cameos from Tom Binns as a sham fortune teller and Johnny Vegas as the greasy owner of a local hotel really keep the first act afloat. Thankfully, things pick up when Omar finds his Indian relatives, an affluent, eccentric family in constant dismay at moronic prankster Irfan (Asim Chaudhry), who naturally turns out to be Omar’s dad.
The leads all put in fine comic performances, with Carroll, best known as the runner-up of the 2013 series of Britain’s Got Talent, carrying over the cheeky, self-deprecating persona from his stand-up routine to the film’s best character. Aakeel and Carroll have great chemistry between them, which proves useful when the film settles on a corny but nevertheless touching lesson about the importance of brotherhood.
Eaten by Lions is no doubt warm and funny; the kind of film destined to get a Sunday afternoon TV slot aimed at feel-good family viewing. It’s also harmless and largely formulaic, with an unnecessary and undeveloped romantic subplot to boot (the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is alive and well, depressingly). Perhaps the most damning criticism of the film is that it feels like it could have been made 15 years ago. It’s especially true of its politics: with the first wave of Brexit-era films coming through, there’s something bizarrely naïve about Eaten by Lions’ unwillingness to pursue the wider conversations about multiculturalism in Britain that the film sets itself up to tackle.
Image Credit: Edinburgh International Film Festival