Review: The Movie Doctors by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode

Tom Browne

The Wittertainment hosts reproduce their award-winning double act in book form, and it’s as addictive as ever.

Kermode and Mayo
The Movie Doctors by Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo

Imagine two men in their fifties sitting in a room discussing—and occasionally bickering about—the week’s film releases. It shouldn’t work on paper, but Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode, hosts of the BBC’s “flagship movie podcast”, have over a million listeners a month. The show is second only to The Archers in popularity in terms of BBC podcasts.

The secret of the radio show’s appeal is easy to see in their first foray into co-authorship. Powered along by the pair’s running dialogue, humorous/grumpy asides and individual obsessions, The Movie Doctors “prescribes” films to cure you of all manner of afflictions: boredom, insomnia, anxiety, the stresses of parenthood, old age and many more. Whatever your circumstances, the movies are here to help.

This, of course, gives plenty of scope for the authors to take their respective hobbyhorses for a canter. Thus we have Kermode, in a section entitled How Praise Can Damage Your Health, scolding directors Michael Cimino and John Boorman for believing their own hype and allowing self-indulgence to run riot. This resulted in Heaven’s Gate in the case of Cimino and the hilariously bad Zardoz in the case of Boorman.

Mayo, meanwhile, exalts the curative powers of Amadeus in Eleven Ways That Amadeus Will Make You Happier, Nicer and Everything. It’s a pretty bold claim for a biopic of Mozart, but rendered plausible by Mayo’s passionate advocacy.

Fans of the show will obviously get the most out of this. There are many running jokes and sly allusions for the faithful to enjoy, and even the title refers to one of their age-old disputes.

Kermode, the film expert, completed a PhD in English at Manchester University, writing a thesis on horror fiction; while Mayo, the high-profile broadcaster, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Warwick University. Cue much discussion (mostly good-natured) about the difference between a “proper” and “pretend” doctor.

The book delights in the kind of movie trivia and outlandish anecdotes that every film buff can enjoy, regardless of their tolerance of Messrs Kermode and Mayo. The whole project is, after all, driven by a shared love of cinema.

The dedication at the front is “to the ushers and projectionists of this world” and there’s also a chapter entitled The Last Projectionist Standing: Dr Dave Norris’s Guide to the Art of Movie Projection—an acknowledgment, perhaps, that our multiplexes are in danger of disappearing down an automated rabbit hole.

If you want to treat the film fan in your life this Christmas—or just treat yourself—The Movie Doctors is the place to go. Cinema, it seems, is the best medicine.

Feature image via BBC
 

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