30 years ago The Comic Strip Presents… debuted with Five Go Mad in Dorset, a wonderfully screwy version of the Enid Blyton characters, The Famous Five, with young comic actors Peter Richardson, Adrian Edmondson, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French (and some dog as Timmy) portraying the heroic quintet. The result was comic gold, one of the greatest comic parodies to grace British television. Now The Comic Strip has reunited to bring us Five go to Rehab, where we join Julian (Richardson), Dick (Edmondson), Anne (Saunders) and George (French) 30 years on and life is a little different than before.
The best parts of Five Go Mad in Dorset and (to a lesser extent) Five Go Mad on Mescalin was the dedication that the actors put into their roles, they became those characters, marvelously lampooning the out of date nature of the Famous Five. Here all the characters (apart from Dick) have been updated for the modern era, Julian and George are alcoholics and Anne has become a vegetarian completely robbing the humour that was so wonderfully handled in the earlier films. Not to say that Five Go to Rehab is completely devoid of humour, Robbie Coltrane and Edmondson still do their best with what they’ve got and a few gags still muster some giggles.
Plot-wise the Five films were never that strong, it was a basic kids go camping and stumble upon mystery story, here it’s just a mess. The Five are reunited for Dick’s birthday and he’s arranged a nostalgia holiday for the gang but alas, they aren’t too keen. Side plots about a mysterious private museum and a creepy rehab clinic offer very little and Rik Mayall plays a man determined to decapitate Julian in a plot that goes absolutely nowhere. To reunite this team for a plot this thin seems very poor.
As with most comedy reunions, The Comic Strip Presents Five Go to Rehab just doesn’t hit the highs of the original show. Despite amiable work from the cast there just isn’t enough here for a Comic Strip fan to get excited about. It’s long, lazy and weak. Something’s should just stay in the past.