With a stellar cast that includes Michala Banas, Ryan Shelton, Dave Lawson, Tegan Higginbotham and Sam Watkins one of the most interesting comedies to screen at this year’s Sti Kilda Film Festival is For Your Sins. Dave G catches up with director Julian Lucas to see how this great little comedy came together.
Summary: Middle Island was once a flourishing penguin population but sadly over the years the numbers have dropped from a few thousand down to around ten due to the fact that foxes have worked out how to get to the Island. This has now caused problems for Emily Marsh (Sarah Snook), Jack Jones (Richard Davies) and Zoe (Tegan Higginbotham) who have been told they will lose their jobs if the Island is no longer considered a sanctuary.
As the nearby town of Warrnambool works hard at becoming a tourist destination by having the local council including Mayor Lake (Deborah Mailman) working with an advisor named Bradley Slater (Alan Tudyk) to come up with new tourism ideas. But when Bradley’s idea means the future of Middle Island is doomed a local chicken farmer named Swampy Marsh (Shane Jacobson) and his granddaughter, Olivia (Coco Jack Gillies) decides it is up to them and a mischievous dog called Oddball to come up with a way to fix everything.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 17th September 2015
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Stuart McDonald
Screenwriter: Peter Ivan
Cast: Terry Camilleri (Judge Burns), Richard Davies (Jack Jones), Coco Jack Gillies (Olivia), Tegan Higginbotham (Zoe), Shane Jacobson (Swampy), Dave Lawson (Sergeant Gosch), Deborah Mailman (Mayor Lake), Sarah Snook (Emily Marsh), Alan Tudyk (Bradley Slater), Frank Woodley (Dog Catcher)
Runtime: 95 mins
OUR ODDBALL REVIEWS & RATINGS:
This has been the year when the Australian film industry has hit back with vengenance. Amongst the good drama films that have surfaced Aussie cult cinema has led the way around the world with films like Kill Me Three Times and Wrymwood making the charts in America while Mad Max: Fury Road seemed to thrill action film lovers as well. Of course one of the biggest Australian films over the past few years has been Red Dog – a family film that surprised everybody. Not surprisingly many Aussie filmmakers thought they had just discovered the best way to make people watch your film and that was to create a family friendly film about dog. Several projects fitting that description have fallen by the wayside but now Oddball manages to make its way to the big screen.
Yes I’ve made the clichéd comparison between Oddball and Red Dog so now let’s take a look at whether or not the film is actually any good. The answer to that question is a solid yes because director Stuart McDonald (who over recent years has worked on all of Chris Lilley’s projects) and screenwriter Peter Ivan have been brave enough to make Oddball a little bit different to the thousands of dog movies over the years. When the opening to Oddball boasts that this is a fairy tale they aren’t joking. Yes this is a true story that saw the people of Warrnambool embrace a Maremma dog but together these talented filmmakers have told the story in a fairy tale style which incorporates a smart script with a little bit of pantomime acting, especially from comedian Frank Woodley who plays the mean dog catcher. In the past this style of filmmaking has led to some pretty woeful Australian films, I’m looking at you Welcome To Woop Woop, but here it makes a refreshing difference and makes Oddball the kind of film that could be enjoyed by the whole family.
Ironically when watching Oddball the old fart joke and over the top dog chase does have a bit of a feel of a Paul Jennings story and sure enough a quick check of Peter Ivan’s bio shows that he was one of the writer’s on Two Twisted, a show based on Jenning’s work. Somehow this script manages to incorporate that kind of humor with a dramatic storyline revolving around how greed can impeach on nature and also explores the fractured relationship between father and daughter when it comes to things between Swampy and Emily. Yes Ivan and McDonald together have somehow created a film that will actually have you laughing one moment and tearing up the next.
The key to this film working as well as it does though is through it’s casting. Shane Jacobson does a great job in the lead role of Swampy. He made the character of Kenny famous all those years ago and while his comedic talent is held back a little here he now has also made Swampy a much loved Australian character. He is well supported by Alan Tudyk who plays the pushy American but the scenes here are stolen by Sarah Snook who once again shows why she is an Australian actress on the rise and young Coco Jack Gillies who here shows the world that she is a child actress with a huge future ahead of her.
Oddball is a genuine treat. It is a film that has a strong conservational message but doesn’t get bogged down in preaching to its audience. A great script that manages to mix humor and drama together well without becoming to adult for children is a rarity these days, but here it works well and allows it’s talented cast to really show there skills. Different but smart, cute but dramatic Oddball will surprise more than a few people who take the time to watch the film.
Summary: Steve (Simon Mallory) is a comedian on the rise. His manager is starting to get him the right gigs to get noticed and finally he is starting to make a name for himself around the comedy traps… that is perfect with the U.F.C Comedy Championships right around the corner.
Of course Steve’s rise to fame has come at a cost. His relationship with his ex-wife, Emma (Emily Taheny) and his son, Luke (Luke Christopoulos) is strained, not that he minds because along with his new found fame comes a hot girlfriend in the form of Bree (Kate Jenkinson).
But then along comes one of the most unexpected things that has the potential to railroad Steve’s career. As he teaches a comedy class he insults an inspiring, talentless comedian by the name of Mike (Chris Fortuna). After Mike then heckles Steve during a performance and an altercation occurs in the toilet afterwards Steve suddenly finds the dead Mike has somehow managed to inhabit his body and is hellbent on bringing down his career while attempting to launch his own.
Australian Cinema Release Date: TBA
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Ben Plazzer
Screenwriter: Steve Mitchell
Cast: Ben Anderson (Dr. Seinfeld), Luke Christopoulos (Luke), Nick Cody (himself), Ashley Fils-Aime (himself), Chris Fortuna (Mike), Adam Francis (himself), Jeff Green (himself), Scott Harrison (Daniel), Geraldine Hickey (herself), Tegan Higginbotham (Laura), Justin Hosking (Mr. Cash), Kate Jenkinson (Bree), Dave Lawson (Andy), Simon Mallory (Steve), Tony Martin (TV Host), Brad Oakes (himself), Sarah Ripper (herself), Luke Stephens (Dave), Emily Taheny (Emma), Merran Williams (Mavis)
Runtime: 92 mins
OUR THE HECKLER REVIEWS & RATINGS:
So often hastily put together feature films who have relied on crowd funding to get made fall by the wayside. A lot become unwatchable films that are for the lack of a better word to use… a mess. Luckily The Heckler overcomes that kind of tragedy and while it does have the odd weakness here and there it is largely an enjoyable film that is guaranteed to raise a few chuckles out of its audience along the way.
With so many Australian comedians the toast of the world at the moment (think Will Anderson, Joel Creasey and Adam Hills) it is quite a surprise when you realise that there have never really been any films made that are shot revolving around Australia’s thriving comedy circuit. That is one of the reasons that The Heckler is such a welcome watch, the other welcoming factor is the fact that unlike most Australian comedies (I’m pointing my finger at you Big Mamma’s Boy and a range of other wog or bogan related comedy films) it doesn’t make you groan throughout.
Yes, despite the fact that director first time feature director Ben Plazzer and screenwriter, Steve Mitchell really should have done a couple of more rewrites on The Heckler’s screenplay before they went into production, this is a film that actually runs quite smoothly. The film avoids many of the pitfalls that other body-swap films have fallen into over the years and for the most piece this is a nice character driven film that manages to produce a few laughs along the way as well… and yes I even laughed at the ‘I’m your father, Luke’ line which just goes to show what a witty comedy writer Mitchell really is.
The film may have been more marketable commercially if it featured a known Aussie comedic actor such as a Josh Lawson etc but really on reflection both Simon Mallory and Chris Fortuna do great jobs. Mallory is likeable as the unlikable Steve while Chris Fortuna steals the show as he bogans it up to play the at-times repulsive Mike.
Kate Jenkinson, who has made a name for herself on television shows such as House Husbands and Offspring, also announces herself as somebody to watch out for on the big screen as she brilliantly plays the ditzy, Bree. Meanwhile fans of Aussie comedy will get a laugh out of seeing Australian comedy legend Tony Martin (from the D-Gen) popping up in a cameo, even though he is dangerously under used.
The Heckler may not win any comedy gongs this year but if you are wanting to see a movie that will make you laugh throughout while being entertaining to hold your interest you certainly won’t be disappointed with this little Aussie comedy that could.
Other Subculture Entertainment The Heckler reviews: You can also read Dave Griffiths’ The Hecker review on The Book The Film The T-Shirt. You will also be able to hear our The Heckler review on an upcoming episode of The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show.