That was the uncomfortable question I asked myself on a couple of occasions during my viewing of "In the loop" yesterday. The film was a blast - I laughed uproariously at regular junctions all the way through. James Graham has already provided a superb review, so I won't attempt such a thing.
Suffice it to say that it is a fantastic film but I do think it is a film for moderate to heavy political anoraks. In a theatre of sixty people, there were probably only a third of the audience who were regularly "getting" the jokes.
When Judy (Gina McKee) protested to Peter Tucker (Capaldi) that something was "within my purvue", Tucker shouted at her "Purvue? What do you think this is? A ***king Jane Austen novel?" I laughed my head off - very loudly - at this, only to find the gentleman in front of me turning around to look at me as if I was disturbing his enjoyment of the film. (He didn't laugh once during the whole film, as far as I could see). After momentarily feeling admonished, I then relaxed with the thought that the oevre was actually advertised as a comedy, so laughing is normally allowed on such occasions. Is it wrong to laugh too loudly? I think not.
A further illustration of the anoraks-only appeal of the film was when the naive Toby Wright (Chris Addison), in a Washington hotel bathroom, chatted on his mobile with his old college friend working in CNN. After talking about going out for a beer, he casually mentioned that he was going to a "Secret War committee" the next day. I laughed at this. I was alone in the auditorium in my appreciation of that. Needless to say, the "Secret War committee" featured on CNN a few minutes after the bathroom-CNN friend conversation.
But the best line of the film, for me was after an insult and swear-word laden argument between Tucker (Capaldi) and Lt Gen George Miller (played by the excellent James Gandolfini) (or was it the Bolton bloke?). They called each other every name under the sun and thoroughly and derogatorily explored each others' parentage. In the end, Tucker walked away and then turned around, looking very hurt, saying "By the way, DON'T EVER CALL ME ENGLISH AGAIN!".