Monday, 13 September 2010
The year is 1984, the place is New Zealand’s Waihau Bay, and for Boy (James Rolleston) life is good. School is out for the holidays, his little brother thinks he has magic powers, and his Grandmother is taking a break for a week, leaving him in charge of a small army of siblings. Then suddenly his long absent father Alamein (writer / director Taika Waititi) drives up with the other two members of his unimpressive bikie “gang”, and Boy’s life is turned on its head.
Waititi’s second film (after the indie comedy Eagle vs Shark) isn’t exactly a coming of age film – it’s smarter and more subtle than that. For audiences trained to think in Hollywood rhythms, the arrival of Alamein – who clearly at least likes his kids, but is also just as clearly mostly there because he buried some money in a nearby paddock and can’t seem to find it – is a cause for dread. The first ten minutes of this film are as funny as anything you’ll see this year, and the return of an absent dad (fresh out of prison to boot) usually signals darker times ahead.
Instead, Alamein proves to be both a better and a worse father than expected, the comedy keeps on coming even when events eventually take on a slightly darker tinge, and the overall impression is one of a film that’s wholly original and totally charming. That’s thanks in large part to the utterly natural performances from the kids and Waititi’s own dorky charisma, and together with a sharp yet daggily funny script they make this a front-runner for comedy of the year.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #483)