The box art for this British comedy is certainly a grabber: a photo of the titular Mr. Wilt (Griff Rhys Jones) with his pants around his ankles and an inflatable love doll around his waist, apparently caught in flagrante kink. But the videocassette box turns out to be the most outrageous thing about this fatally mild-mannered movie.
The Misadventures of Mr. Wilt, based on a character established in Tom Sharpe’s farcical novels, does have a premise with promise. As played by Jones with muttering wit, Henry Wilt is a dweeby teacher so systematically dumped on by students and peers that by the time the world suddenly pays attention — when an escalating series of comic misunderstandings convinces everyone that he has murdered his wife — Wilt can only respond with sarcastic contempt. Too much of the plot is devoted to pudgy, inept Inspector Flint (Mel Smith) and his attempts to prove Wilt’s guilt. And the fact that the chief villainess is a coldhearted, manipulative lesbian is both a cheap shot and a cliché.
Smith and Jones are a popular TV comedy duo in England, so this extended fizzle is analogous to (and possibly revenge for) all those terrible one-shots starring second-rank Saturday Night Live comedians. Smith at least is capable of better things: He directed the wonderful comedy The Tall Guy, starring Jeff Goldblum. That film should be in stores soon and is worth the wait. By then memories of Mr. Wilt should have mercifully wilted. D+