Oranges and Sunshine, Jim Loach, 105 Mins (15) <br/> Killing Bono, Nick Hamm, 110 Mins (15) <br/>Hop, Tim Hill, 102 Mins (U)

Loach Junior's frumpy debut takes a terrific story &ndash; and flattens it
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The Independent Culture

Is it wise, if you're Ken Loach's son, to open your debut film in a high-rise council flat, where a baby is being removed from its unfit mother? You're just asking viewers to compare your work with your dad's, and Oranges and Sunshine, directed by a certain Jim Loach, isn't helped by this comparison. The film dramatises the true story of Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson), a Nottingham social worker who uncovered a scandal in 1986. Until the 1970s, she learnt, the UK government had shipped children from British care homes to their cheaper equivalents in Australia, without bothering to inform the children's relatives first.

As she investigates, there are death threats and tearful reunions, obstructive officials and personal sacrifices. Given the right director – the initials KL spring to mind – the film could have been a prestigious, award-winning smash. But Jim Loach, it seems, isn't the right director. In his hands, Oranges and Sunshine is a plodding, drab-looking chore which has facts and figures in place of dialogue, and plotlines which suggest, meekly, that they might be quite exciting, before they tiptoe away, never to be seen again. David Wenham and Hugo Weaving come across as living, breathing human beings, but everyone else is an automaton, Watson's frumpy heroine included. Rather than making you wish you were watching a Ken Loach film, Oranges and Sunshine makes you wish you were reading a magazine article on the subject. Or possibly just doing something else entirely.

Still, at least it has a meaty story behind it, and that's what's lacking in Killing Bono, the week's other memoir-based Brit-flick. The memoir is I Was Bono's Doppelgänger, which recounts how Neil McCormick, now a music journalist, tried in vain to make it as a pop star in the 1980s, his struggles rendered all the more galling by the world-conquering success of his old schoolfriends, U2. In the film version, Ben Barnes stars as McCormick, whose own bone-headed decisions are wholly responsible for his failure. Robert Sheehan plays his long-suffering brother Ivan, the guitarist in his band. And Martin McCann is so uncanny as Bono that he could stand in if the real thing ever takes a sabbatical.

It's fairly genial stuff. Its illustrious co-writers, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, provide some amusing one-liners, and Peter Serafinowicz gets laughs as a coke-addled record executive. But Killing Bono remains a string of anecdotes which could have been told by anyone who's ever been in a band. There's never any plot except when it's glaringly fictitious, and there's not much more in the way of character development. McCormick's haircut and clothes may get more ludicrous with every scene, but he's the same self-deluding, self-sabotaging twerp from start to finish.

Hop is a joyless hybrid of animation and live action from the director of Alvin and the Chipmunks – you have been warned. It's also a cynical effort to promote the Easter Bunny to Santa-level iconhood, with his own Willy Wonka-like chocolate factory staffed by chicks, and an annual trip around the world on a magic sleigh.

This commerce-driven myth-manufacturing is irritating enough; what's worse is that the film-makers have no idea what to do next. In part, Hop is the story of how the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie) is ousted by his ambitious right-hand chick. In part, it's about the Bunny's son (voiced by Russell Brand) going to Hollywood to meet David Hasselhoff, visit the Playboy Mansion (bunnies ... get it?), and become a rock drummer. Quite. The film's only interesting facet is how wilfilly it expunges Christianity from proceedings: Easter has been going, it asserts, for 4,000 years.

Next Week

Nicholas Barber dons his 3D glasses for Rio and Mars Needs Moms

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