Anil Desai is a very personable and talented impressionist. He can give a wide variety of spot-on impressions, but unfortunately the show lacked a sense of cohesion, making it seem like an hour’s worth of party tricks.
His Night at the Movies sounds like it will have a narrative, or at least something linking it all together - just as a movie would. However, this is not even like a collection of movie trailers - the effect is more that of flicking endlessly between movie channels. He starts with some mediocre stand-up, recounting a time when his impressions interfered with his love life. There was the occasional good impression amongst the stand-up - the Keanu Reeves is my favourite from the entire show. However, within the stand-up sections, Desai can often let the impressions drag on a little too long. As such, there are many lulls in the show.
This is a complete contrast to the next section, where he gives a pack of 30 cards to an audience member, each with a different film star or character, and he reels off impression after impression. There are some truly wonderful impressions here, particularly Christopher Walken and Austin Powers. However, he also ended up repeating two impressions that he’d used earlier in the show: Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino.
He finishes with stories of one night stands and a fantastic closer recounting how he dealt with a heckler. Some of the impressions in these stories - Jim Carrey, Samuel L. Jackson - were on par with any of those in the deck of cards. My overriding feeling was that I wish he could have incorporated all of at least some of his ‘cast’ of characters into his stories rather than this mish-mash of impressions. There is just too much that he is trying to accomplish in this show, which ends up lessening the impact of his impressions. There is so much talent here - I’d like my night at the movies be a jam-packed blockbuster cast, Expendables-style, rather than what feels like a tired repeat of 100 Movie Greats on ITV2.