Review: ‘The Extra’

Derivative of funnier satires of the film business, "The Extra" charts a bit-part player's pursuit of stardom while tangling with underworld types and Z-grade producers. Jimeoin McKeown is likable as the fame-thirsty thesp, but his sketchlike screenplay relies too heavily on weather-beaten gags and stale caricatures.

Derivative of funnier satires of the film business, “The Extra” charts a bit-part player’s pursuit of stardom while tangling with underworld types and Z-grade producers. Jimeoin McKeown (billed here by first name only), a Northern Ireland comedian popular in his adopted Australia, is likable as the fame-thirsty thesp, but his sketchlike screenplay relies too heavily on weather-beaten gags and stale caricatures. Pic opened domestically April 21 to mixed reviews and modest first-week B.O., then dropped off sharply. Some U.K. and Ireland interest is possible, but combo of spotty humor and Jimeoin’s thick accent is hardly the formula for a Stateside breakthrough.

Jimeoin scored a hit Down Under in 1999 debut “The Craic” (1999), about an innocent immigrant surrounded by oddballs and criminals, and it’s more or less the same routine here. Fortyish, dancing in a gay nightclub to make ends meet and craving fame as the passport to girls and swanky parties, the (unnamed) Extra hasn’t yet gravitated beyond billing as a corpse in cheesy American blockbuster “Eternal Flame III.”

His opportunity to snare the spotlight arrives in the form of faded child star Curtis Thai-Buckworth (Rhys Muldoon). Intending a career comeback as a director, Thai-Buckworth nabs the Extra for the lead in a promo reel funded by Marko (Bob Franklin), a Cockney loan shark with a doctoral knowledge of Russian silent cinema. Assembly of deluded showbiz aspirants is rounded out by Thai-Buckworth’s floozy g.f. Kylie Crackenrack (Helen Dallimore) and reality TV cop Ridley (Shaun Micallef), who fancies himself Laurence Olivier.

The scenario is ideal for snappy farce and underdog heroics, but Jimeoin’s situations read too much like a tepid patchwork of “Bowfinger,” “Get Shorty” and “Ed Wood.” Dialogue generally lacks the firepower to incite more than smiles, with laugh-out-loud moments restricted to early potshots at inflated star egos and Dickensian working conditions of nameless players on big-budget productions.

Efficiently helmed by Kevin Carlin, debuting after a long stint in Aussie TV, pic is assisted by performers making the most of revuelike roles. Best is Katherine Slattery, who registers warmly as naive actress Claudia, the Extra’s love interest and sole character grounded in reality.

Competent tech package’s bright note is the lensing of d.p. Mark Wareham, whose varied palette evokes cinematic yesteryears. Catering to the foreign market, pic never names Melbourne as its location.

The Extra

Australia

Production

A Hoyts release (in Australia) of a Ruby Entertainment/Extra Craic production, presented by Macquarie Nine Film and Television Fund and Film Finance Corp. Australia, in association with Film Victoria. (International sales: Lightning Entertainment, Los Angeles). Produced by Stephen Luby, Mark Ruse, Bruno Charlesworth. Executive producers, Jennie Hughes, Posie Graeme-Evans. Directed by Kevin Carlin. Screenplay, Jimeoin.

Crew

Camera (Cinevex, Atlab color), Mark Wareham; editor, Angie Higgins; music, Roger Mason; production designers, Carrie Kennedy, Ben Morieson; costume designer, Kitty Stuckey; sound (Dolby Digital), Jock Healy; assistant director, Margie Beattie; casting, Kelly O'Shea. Reviewed at Fox screening room, Sydney, April 7, 2005. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Jimeoin, Rhys Muldoon, Katherine Slattery, Bob Franklin, Helen Dallimore, Kristy Hinze, Shaun Micallef, Tayler Kane.
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