This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
BY JACK RANSOM OCTOBER 16, 2023
I had never heard of the legend of Gef the Talking Mongoose (or the Dalby Spook), a story that gained significant coverage in the early 1930’s - The Irwin family (who owned a farmhouse on the Isle of Man) claim to have the pleasure of a talking mongoose inhabiting their home and the land surrounding it. Word of mouth brings the attention of ghost hunters and parapsychologists from across the country to come and investigate. Unfortunately the premise itself is far more interesting than the film’s execution of it, and I feel like it would have been better suited as a short film.
Based on the bizarre true story. Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose sees famed paranormal psychologist Dr. Nandor Fodor (Simon Pegg) investigate a family's claim of a talking animal, he uncovers a mysterious web of hidden motives. Soon, everyone becomes a suspect in his relentless pursuit of the truth.
Clocking in at just over 90 minutes this quirky little comedy mystery simply never is funny as it should be (with it getting only a couple of chuckles out of me) or as eyebrow-raising and perplexing as it could be. Which is a shame, as there are moments of charming eccentricity and a very thick quirky, incredibly ‘British’ feeling tone to the proceedings. It very quickly falls into a repetitive routine of long dialogue scenes that mostly involve the Irwin’s explaining why Gef won’t be making an appearance and Nandor complaining about the fact. You really start to feel the slow pacing in the second half and simply want more from the screenplay (and Gef) overall.
There is certainly a ‘streaming movie’ feel to the proceedings. The limited and rural locales add a small town/village intimacy to the proceedings. The costumes, props and production design are all decent enough, and the direction is simply just fine. Once again you get the sense that the material deserved a more absurdist and stylistic approach.
Simon Pegg brings a frankly superb Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained impression to Nandor. He’s clearly enjoying himself and even gets to delve into some more emotionally charged territory towards the finale. Minnie Driver is likeable as his assistant Anne and Christopher Lloyd brings his always notable spectacled presence to quite literally the table in his limited scenes. Lastly, Neil Gaiman’s voice performance for Gef is certainly a unique choice as well.
Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is a film that could and probably should have been better than it was. Enthusiastic performances, bursts of charming wackiness and the cosy sets/locations can’t stop this from being a significant chore to get through due to its pacing and repetitive structure, that never is consistently outright funny as a comedy or engrossing as a mystery.