Hugh Laurie has a future in directing teen mysteries, which is really what this is, but I enjoyed every second of it. Agatha Christie purists may not like it, but for me it hits all the 'updated for a younger audience' notes without being overly over about it, up there with 'Enola Holmes' (new requirement for period mysteries: killer in a bowler hat).
I've tried to watch Hugh Laurie over the years but have never been able to do it, just because I can't get with the 1000%-acerbicness thing that he does. But everything that he does (Cambridge Footlights with Emma Thompson, comedic timing, dark wit, precise acting) is also really well put to use here, which ultimately shows how good he is at all of it. In direct comparison to Stephen Merchant, who directed Fighting With My Family, which I also just watched on Prime and found extremely disappointing for someone at his level.
'Why Didn't They Ask Evans' has all of what a writer-director-actor 'should' be, which is to say, tightly directed and produced with only the barest bit of a cameo. Now I'm going to imagine how much better every mainstream Kenneth Branagh film might have been if Hugh Laurie had directed it. .
One more thing. I see so many reviews online that complain about how 'woke' a movie or TV show is. People use the word 'woke' like an insult, like equal treatment for people is something to sneer at.
Well, diversity actually matters. The problem with Stephen Merchant's 'Fighting With My Family' is that not only did it ultimately look like it was patched together from various film sets with varying budgets, it also treated all of its brown and Black supporting characters like they were dumb, clueless comic foils in a way that wouldn't have been out of place in the 1940s and ’50s.
Hugh Laurie and Kenneth Branagh do have one thing in common that is really admirable: They cast people of color in supporting roles who are just as exciting to watch as the lead actors. I love seeing Nonso Anozie in every Kenneth Branagh film, and Jonathan Jules in this film pretty much erased Merchant's heinous racial-stereotypes misfire of 'Fighting With My Family'.
Thank you Hugh Laurie for doing such a great job with this. And in the middle of a pandemic, no less!