BRAN NUE DAE (2009)


 Greetings again from the darkness. Gosh! Enough already! How many Aboriginal musicals featuring a VW hippie van being pursued by a priest must we endure? OK, so maybe the premise isn’t all that common. Based on an extremely popular Australian play from the 1990’s, director Rachel Perkins screen adaptations features the deserts of NW Australia and a loony priest played by Geoffrey Rush.

Though the idea is pretty creative, the film execution comes up lacking a bit. None of the songs are very catchy and the overall talent in the film is mediocre at best. Newcomer Rocky McKenzie in the lead role of Willie is pretty nondescript. Willie is forced by his mother to attend a school led by Geoffrey Rush in order to train for a life in the priesthood. Of course, Willie is a teenager and all he really wants is time to hang out with Rosie … they make flutter-eyes at each other. Sadly, Rosie falls under the spell of a honky tonk musician as Willie heads out to study God.

Jessica Mauboy plays Rosie and has the musical highlight of the film as she belts out “Stand By Your Man”. The downside is that the lip-syncing is so poor that I found it quite distracting. As expected, when Willie rebels and runs away from the cloth and towards Rosie, the fun begins. He hooks up with Uncle Tadpole (an energetic and slightly twisted Ernie Dingo) and a couple of traveling hippies. One of the hippies is played by recording artist Missy Higgins. They are unknowingly being chased by the priest as they try to get Willie back to Broome (and Rosie!).

Along the way they stumble upon a roadside shop run by the great Magda Szubanski, who was so memorable as Mrs. Hoggett in Babe. That’s just one of the challenges they face along the dirt highway. For the sake of comedy, there should have been even more.

The film has bits of Bollywood, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Grease, but the parts just don’t add up to a full musical comedy. The colors and setting are spectacular and the words to the songs often reinforce the plight of the Aborigine people, but everything just falls a bit short of the target. Even the climactic scene where all the pieces of the puzzle come raining down doesn’t compare to the similar type scene in City Island. It’s a sweet, simple enough film with just not enough to offer.

SEE THIS MOVIE:  if you want to tell all your friends you have seen an Aboriginal Musical.  Be forewarned: There are no guarantees they will be impressed.

SKIP THIS MOVIE: if you prefer musicals with catchy tunes or Australian movies featuring big knives and crocodile hunters.

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