This has all the default elements of a Quality Brit Flick – an adaptation of a lauded and popular novel, an inspiring against-the-odds tale, the put-upon little guy who finds himself, a bit of Ealing-style whimsy, a script by Simon Beaufort (Full Monty, Slumdog) with a rogue element of current affairs and defanged political satire.

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It all then flows down to its inevitable destination – a romantic comedy in which an uncertain and awkward leading man wins over the ravishing leading lady.

Fred (Ewan McGregor) is a meagre man from the Fishing Ministries, who finds himself sucked up into an absurd PR ruse by government spin doctor Maxwell (Kristen Scott Thomas) to help a Yemeni sheik (Amr Waked) realise his dream of doing a spot of fishing in his arid homeland.

Emily Blunt is the banker entrusted with organising the project but who is concerned about the fate of her new soldier boyfriend (Tom Mison) who has just been sent to Afghanistan.

At one point, Blunt describes Fred as having Asperger’s and, in many ways, the film has a lot in common with Extremely Loud and Extremely Close, a cringing awkwardness born of trying to fit a novel into movie form.

It’s bold, yet timid. You can see the ideas and scope and ambition of the project but it is buried under a simpering layer of twee.

The sex of the Maxwell character has been changed to avoid direct comparisons with Malcolm Tucker but the political satire here is sub-Yes Minister.

Only fishing really stirs the film’s juices and the salmon are lovingly photographed in the kind of slow-motion, moving-through-cascading-water shots that Michael Bay usually lavishes on the leading lady in a Transformers film.

Like Extremely Loud, it has an unappealing main character. Fred is an uptight dullard and it takes all McGregor’s skill to make his emergence into a full human being credible.

Salmon Fishing should be a horrible thing, a whimpering cowardly bungling atrocity yet somehow McGregor and Blunt have the skill and charisma to make it bearable; perhaps even a hit.

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (12A)

Director: Lasse Hallström

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristen Scott Thomas, Amr Waked and Tom Mison

Length: 107 mins

**

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