Charlie & Boots

Paramount.  Starring: Paul Hogan, Shane Jacobson, and Morgan Griffin. Directed by Dean Murphy
Rated M (Coarse Language). 101 min.

This is a comedy drama about the relationship between dairy farmer, Charlie McFarland (Paul Hogan) and his son, Boots (Shane Jacobson) that carries some heavy emotional punch. Charlie has just lost his wife tragically, and misses her deeply. Boots realises something has to be done to rescue his father from his misery over her death. Despite the fact that they have  been estranged from each other for a long time, Boots talks his father into going for a fishing trip, supposedly near-by, that turns out to be more than 3,500 kilometres away to fulfil a childhood promise. Charlie naturally resists when he finds out, and tries unsuccessfully to escape, and the movie is about the slow recovery of their relationship en route. On their way, they pick up an attractive hitchhiker, Jess (Morgan Griffin). Jess is a teenager, who gets herself involved in some highly unusual situations that work as a catalyst for them to cement their relationship.

Despite the scenery, vividly captured by the film’s cinematography, this is a movie that celebrates the relationship between father and son, and Hogan and Jacobson bring considerable dramatic talents to bear on their on- and off-again emotional attachment to each other. The movie is something of a comeback for both Hogan and Jacobson. In it, Hogan (of “Crocodile Dundee” fame) teams up with Jacobson (Australia’s most famous dunny man in “Kenny”) to form a partnership that works for them both. As the trip unfolds, we are exposed to deep family conflicts, and emotional revelations are made by both Charlie and Boots that help them get their relationship back on track. The film shows some wonderful scenery from Victoria to the northern end of Australia. Their trip includes the Grampians, the Warrnambool Memorial Bowls Club, Forbes, Tamworth, Tenterfield, The Atherton Tablelands, The Great Barrier Reef, and Cape York - all the way from southern Australia to the rugged wilderness of Australia at its northern-most tip.

This is a light-hearted road movie laced heavily with dry Australian wit that is well suited to Australian audiences, who will identify readily with the Australian characters portrayed in it, and be attracted by the Aussie nature of its well-scripted asides, as well as the warmth of the film’s two main characters. Both Hogan and Jacobson demonstrate their experience as actors and comedians, and they instil their roles with a great deal of intelligence. There is a sly, infectious humour to their dramatic interactions, and Morgan Griffin is a good foil to their comic talents as a  teenager with radical attitudes and a mind of her own. Almost in every respect, this is a home-grown movie that will have undoubted local appeal. The film starts slowly, but picks up pace as the revelations between father and son unfold. Their road-trip up the eastern coast of Australia guarantees local enjoyment, though the dramatic elements of the father-son relationship become side-tracked a little by one’s anticipation of the next familiar stop.  Just how the movie will work for international audiences is unclear, but there is a fair dose of national stereotyping in the film that has been injected into the film to capture attention, just in case.  Several scenes, however, are hilarious stand-outs, including the one where Charlie and Boots are booked for speeding by a not-so-bright police officer, while they are in a car that is being towed.

This is a nice, simple and warm movie that will be judged as a successful come-back for both Hogan and Jacobson. Their stars still burn, but not as brightly as when we were given “Crocodile Dundee”, and “Kenny”. Nevertheless, the film is bound to be popular with Australian audiences, and it unquestionably entertains.

Out September 3, 2009.

Peter W. Sheehan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting. 

 


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