Swinging Safari – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

January 12, 2018 by Roz Tarszisz
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Blasts from the past can be fun.  This latest offering from writer/director Stephan Elliott with lava lamps, high waisted bellbottoms, parents behaving badly and a bunch of feral children looked to be just the ticket for the summer holiday season.

Australian directors are often heavy-handed when producing comedies.  Do they believe that we won’t get subtle humour?  Strictly Ballroom and Muriel come to mind as examples of sledgehammer comedy.    What might have worked for Elliott’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, doesn’t work that well in this far from affectionate look at the past.

It’s 1975 in an Australian coastal town. Three families live in the same street and move in a pack to the beach where the adults proceed to drink heavily and the children run wild –  when they aren’t being shouted at, and even when they are.

The story is told in flashback by 14-year-old Jeff Marsh (Atticus Rob) as he sets up the other children to appear in his home-made horror movies.

Two of the wives, Jo Jones (Radha Mitchell) and Gale Marsh (Asher Keddie), cook up a plan to have a wife swapping evening but when it goes wrong, the families start warring. Kaye Hall (an almost unrecognisable Kylie Minogue) is out of it on booze for most of the time.

Rick Jones (Julian McMahon with a bouffant hairdo), Keith Hall (Guy Pearce with a blond thatch) and Bob Marsh (Jeremy Sims, bravely sporting a jumpsuit and mutton-chops) try to patch up their differences.  Their wives rock the gear.

A giant blue whale washes up on the beach and starts to smell. The mayor (Jack Thompson) eventually comes up with a solution to get rid of the carcass which makes for a for a ghastly, but fitting, finale.

The scene setting is excellent   –   the sunken lounge area and wall art,  pineapple and cheese on sticks and fondue served at a party –  all reproduce the era.  But it’s a two-joke story which quickly gets sucked dry.

Jeff Marsh’s voiceover lays it out at the end.

“That summer my parents gave me permission to remain 14 forever” he says.

If you are a young teenage boy, you will love this film. Everyone else, approach with caution.

2/5   Rated  M Comedy  2018  Released January 18

Stars Guy Pearce, Julian McMahon, Radha Mitchell, Kylie Minogue, Asher Keddie, Jeremy Sims

Directed and written by Stephan Elliott

Previews this weekend.


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