Cliff Sees the Error of his Ways
I'm seriously split as to how I feel about "Two a Penny" as there is plenty I dislike about it as well as the fact that now over 40 years after release it is incredibly dated. But I also kind of like the fact that here we have Cliff Richard acting in a drama rather than purely trading on his likeability and singing ability. It just doesn't feel real, a manufactured story which is weak and incredibly padded out as it delivers a message about finding God. Yes "Two a Penny" is a Christian movie, with scenes of Billy Graham and an underlying theme of finding God.
Jamie Hopkins (Cliff Richard - Wonderful Life) is what you could call a likely lad who only thinks of himself. He may have a nice girlfriend in Carol (Ann Holloway) and a supportive mother in Ruby (Dora Bryan) but he wants more and will do what ever it takes to short cut his way to wealth. But when his girlfriend finds God at a Billy Graham convention and his wheeling dealing ways lands him in a whole lot of trouble Jamie discovers he is running out of options and ways to turn.
So it has to be said that "Two a Penny" suffers from an incredibly weak storyline. The whole thing revolves around the wheeling and dealing Jamie who is a bad egg, a real bad egg who will steal drugs to take money and like any normal young man has sex on the brain. As the story unfolds we watch at what levels he will sink to to get what he wants but as his life spirals out of control and his girlfriend finds God he finds himself being drawn towards the church. The trouble is that the whole thing is incredibly weak, the storyline is padded out so much that for about 95% it focuses on building up the character of Jamie as to how unscrupulous he is and little else. That means that when his life does spiral out of control and he finds himself turning to God it is covered in the space of a couple of minutes.
Maybe because "Two a Penny" is a 60s/ 70s movie and as such is seriously dated on a visual level that it is hard work. Maybe with it being a Christian movie that they cut down the finding God to the minimum so that it doesn't come across too preachy. In fact the preachiness of it is minuscule and maybe that is one of the major issues as it floats around building up Jamie to be nasty. And it has to be said that it is a shame as its heart is in the right place except it feels all too manufactured even forced to the point that it's impossible to take it seriously.
What is good is watching Cliff Richard actually act rather than trading on his pop star personality. So yes there is at least one singing moment which feels wrong but other than that this is Cliff demonstrating that he can act. Now it is impossible to take Cliff seriously as a bad egg, a troublesome young man who will steal drugs and then sell them on. But his acting is pretty good and he does carry the movie quite nicely on his shoulders.
In fact "Two a Penny" relies so heavily on Cliff to carry the movie that the rest of the cast barely get a look in. Ann Holloway comes over as lovely as Jamie's girlfriend Carol but is also so weak that when she finds God it is all too airy fairy. And unfortunately Dora Bryan as Jamie's mother Ruby is purely background noise. If only these other actors and "Two a Penny" has a fair few recognizable faces, had bigger roles it may have stopped it from feeling so manufactured.
What this all boils down to is that "Two a Penny" is a movie of good intentions and maybe it worked back in the late 60s when it was released. But watching it now it's hard to take seriously as not only does it look visually dated but it also feels very unreal, overly manufactured and quite dreary. Despite this and the fact for me he was miscast Cliff Richard shows that he can act and carries the weight of the movie firmly across his shoulders.