SWEDISH director Lasse Hallström is the king of the undemanding light drama adapted from a successful novel, having previously tackled the likes of Chocolat, The Shipping News and The Cider House Rules, and probably the least heinous Nicholas Sparks effort to date, Dear John.
His latest, a daft reworking of the Paul Torday book, delivers exactly what its clumsy title promises, alongside a nice collection of actors, but it struggles to escape its overbearing goofiness and sentimentality.
Ewan McGregor stars as Dr Alfred Jones, an expert in fish and their fishy ways. He's approached by Harriet (Emily Blunt), a civil servant who represents a Yemeni sheik who has a dream of introducing salmon to his country for sport.
Harriet wants Alfred to investigate whether the scheme is feasible, which it clearly isn't given the environmental constraints, never mind the logistical improbability of flying thousands of salmon from Scotland to the Middle East.
But another government lackey, the prime minister's press officer (Kristin Scott Thomas) steps in to try and make the project fly, mainly because she sees it as a public interest story that can be used to cover up recent bombings in Afghanistan, and so Alfred gets strong-armed into making it happen.
Once it gets over a few initial bumps, this is reasonably affable stuff, with likeable characters and an upbeat daftness in the way it approaches the material that's almost enough to make you start hoping their demented plan works.
But it suffers from the problems that blight many novel adaptations, chiefly a wayward plot that might be at home meandering about on the page, but which doesn't gel on the screen.
Too many irons in the fire drag it out, and there's also the matter of Harriet's soldier boyfriend who has gone missing in the Middle East.
McGregor at least gets to do a Scottish accent, but that's about the best that can be said.
He's horribly miscast as a stuffy professor type, and the results are ripe and silly, though he and Blunt do make a sweet pairing.
Thomas is wildly over the top, though she does manage to provide some of the funnier moments even as she's looking like she belongs in another film entirely.
But though it can be comically awful in places, there's just something harmless and endearing about Salmon Fishing in the Yemen that makes it tough to really lay into, no matter how much you may want to.
Director: Lasse Hallström
Running time: 106 mins
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