Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose
by Hope Madden
In the 1930s, the Lock Ness Monster had a competitor for the attention of the world’s most gullible. On the Isle of Man, one seemingly normal family claimed that a talking mongoose lived on their property. His name was Gef (sounds like Jeff, which is just funny).
This really happened.
A psychologist named Nandor Fodor traveled to the Irvin family’s farm to prove or disprove these claims. His visit is the basis of writer/director Adam Sigal’s dramedy, Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose.
Simon Pegg plays Dr. Fodor with a mixture of insecurity and vulnerability that’s appealing. Fodor is a skeptic, naturally, although – like probably all who investigate the supernatural – he wants to believe. He wants to prove that something beyond us is possible. Not that he’d admit it.
He certainly wouldn’t admit it to his assistant, Anne (Minnie Driver). Driver’s performance is delightfully bright, logical and yet open. Fodor may see this farce for what it is, but the experience is letting Anne see Fodor for what he is.
The film feels most relevant and transgressive when working as a clear theological allegory.
“All anyone wants in this world is to be happy,” the Irvin estate manager tells Fodor. “Maybe you’d be happy if you let people believe what they want to believe. People love that mongoose.”
“The one that doesn’t exist?” Fodor responds cynically.
As religious metaphor, Nandor Fodor delivers a tale far more empathetic and compassionate than you might expect. But Sigal changes focus from “what makes people choose to believe in Gef” to “what makes someone create such a fabrication?”
Both questions have merit in an investigation or an allegorical film. But Sigal pivots so quickly that the “why believe?” question feels entirely unresolved and the “why lie about it?” resolution seems almost patronizing.
But a cast of eclectic, sometimes weirdly melancholy characters , Pegg’s angry befuddlement and Driver’s charm are almost enough to make up for it.