Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 89 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Forget your wussy AFL, you’re neckless rugby losers – hell, even those over-padded gridiron pussies. Get ready for some extreme sport – sport with bite, sport with ‘tude… get ready for the cutthroat, no holds barred, dog eat dog world of wheels of cheese, trifle days, fruit platters, swear jars and Toyota Crowns – get ready for, erm, lawn bowls!
Hey, a girl’s gotta try to make these things exciting, you know?
Not that Crackerjack really needs any hyping, after all it received a remarkable amount of coverage both from media and word of mouth on release last year – and for a pleasant change it wasn’t a case of over-hyping. Much loved member of The Late Show team Mick Molloy and his brother Richard have concocted one of those uniquely Aussie comedies with decent lashings of larrikinism (oh no, I dropped the dreaded ‘L’ word!), and a similar comedic vibe to the likes of The Castle and even, harking back a bit, such classics as The Adventures of Barry Mackenzie and Picnic at Hanging Rock. Well, maybe not the last one – but there are lots of white cossies…
The boys are back in town...
It all revolves around one Jack Simpson (Mick Molloy), an opportunistic failed horticulture student who went for his call centre job for one reason and one reason only – it was close to his hallowed parking spot, gained by the little scam of joining the local Cityside Bowls Club. Ever the entrepreneur, he signed up three times, getting a nice little earner going by hawking the spare passes daily to co-workers tired of the bastard grey ghosts that haunt Chapel Street like flies hovering around turds (yes, I’ve been stung by them too). But then one day, with the club facing a raft of injuries, Jack gets the call up – shit, if he doesn’t play he forfeits his membership, time to break out the old cricket whites then!
On fronting up to protect his investment, Jack discovers it’s actually not all that bad. After all, you get to smoke like a chimney, the booze is cheap, there’s free food and not much chance of doing a hammy. Hey, he’ll play the one game and get back to it all, right? But escaping their clutches isn’t so easy – they're actually a decent bunch of old buggers - and then Jack unwittingly becomes involved in helping save the club from its dire economic situation – and the evil clutches of shonky pokie machine developer Bernie Fowler (John Clarke). The club enters a tournament for a sizeable monetary prize – can Jack’s secret weapon, the flipper, be their saviour?
"Let’s do it for the sangawiches!"
If you’re familiar with the Molloy style of humour you should have an inkling what to expect here, and there’s many a decent cack to be had. A simply fabulous cast of familiar faces all put in superb performances – from the likes of Bill Hunter, Frank Wilson, Monica Maughan and Lois Ramsey, to younger folk such as com-chick extraordinaire Judith Lucy and The Secret Life of Us’ Samuel Johnson. The only problem with the presence of the latter is that every time he opens his yap the film starts sounding like an ad for a chain of hamburger outlets…
Like a tiger!
Circumcised slightly from its cinematic ratio of 1.85:1 to an over-priced, only for rich people telly size of 1.78:1, the anamorphic transfer afforded Crackerjack does a decent enough job, though it is hardly state of the art. It seems Roadshow handballed the disc’s authoring to the quite capable folk at Madman, with one of their traits, dreadful layer change placement, being one of the letdowns here. Occurring just after a scene change it manages to obliterate the start of a line of dialogue, and such shonkiness really is both surprising and disappointing. Otherwise, the image is pretty clean throughout, with only one or two flecks popping by fleetingly and nothing in the way of grain. Perhaps it’s the limited budget showing, because the image is about as sharp as a pair of safety scissors, but it does exhibit good colouring – with the bright greens and blues bursting forth quite gorgeously – and decent enough shadow detail on the rare occasion it’s actually an issue.
The buns are better at Cracker Jacks...
Rolling in with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, there’s actually not a hell of a lot to differentiate between the two. Most everything even vaguely sonic pretty much glues itself to the front soundstage for the duration, with really only two solid thumps occurring to jolt the subwoofwoof out of a peaceful slumber. You may notice a little ambience from the rears, but nothing particularly noteworthy. Still, for the most part it’s one of those good old dialogue-driven beasties, so what’s here does its job, offering no synch issues and clarity of dialogue at all times.
Music-wise, there’s quite the boppy little score from Gareth Skinner, and a grand total of four pop songs from Ben Lee, the Sunnyboys, Australian Crawl and, umm, Australian Crawl again. Who’s a little fan-boy then, Micky?
Lovely, verdant menus with balls lead to a pleasingly chunky-ish selection of extras…
A Crackerjack menu...
First up there’s not one, not three, not four but two commentaries. The first features Mick and Richard Molloy, plus Judith Lucy pipes up when she appears on screen. Those expecting an out-and-out cack-fest may be disappointed, but this is still an amusing and entertaining example of three people yabbering over the top of a movie, giving them all a chance to fluff their own pillows with a balance of serious stuff and a touch of silliness. Those after a bit of a more serious take on proceedings will no doubt get their jollies with the second commentary, from director Paul Maloney, DOP Brent Crockett and producer Stephen Luby. Suffice to say if words such as “rushes”, “grips”, “lenses”, “cranes” and “grading” get you going off like a fire cracker then you’ll be listening to this in rapt awe, as the three get way technical on our arses but still manage to impart some interesting stuff for mere mortals about locations and the cast.
A set of five deleted scenes polluted by all manner of time codes is next up, totalling just over nine minutes in all. Each available with or without commentary from Mick’n’Dick, we’re given a general idea why all of these copped the chop, except for the quite sweet original ending, which would have worked beautifully. Perhaps the budget didn’t extend to an optical effect? Three alternate flippers follow, which is simply the flipper scene three times with a different soundtrack – a tad yawny really.
The brief behind the scenes featurette (7:09) is fabulous fun – except for its brevity. Shot on location at Corowa for the big bowls final there’s all manner of off the cuff cast moments, chats with the locals, whines about the weather, a look at a remote controlled lawn bowl (!) and plenty of mickfoolery for good measure. Now we’re into the pretty standard extras-fare, with a trailer (2:21, 1.78:1 un-enhanced) which does a fairly understated job of flogging the film, five TV spots which do much the same (three are 30 seconds long, two are 15 seconds short), a stills gallery featuring 36 snaproonies, and a 27 second compile of naughty words labelled swear jar, complete with pop-up Gwen.
Oh, appropriate considering the apparent production precipitation problems is the plip-plop, raindroppy, wet Dolby trailer when you play the DD5.1 mix.
Finally, a quick tip – have a fiddle with all the options in the ‘Setup’ menu…
It’s great that there’s been a spate of Aussie comedies hitting the big screen in the past few years, but a shame that most of them have been utter crap. While not reaching the benchmark heights of The Castle, Crackerjack most certainly isn’t crap, balancing often piss-funny humour with a touch of heart in a way which hopefully a few others will take some cues from.
In all it’s a good egg of a DVD quality-wise without being stunning, and is certainly well worth revving the old Humber up for a trip down to your local purveyor of little shiny discs. But slowly, of course.
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "