Cheery but innocuous pic is based on a 1990 Aussie stage musical.

Cheery but innocuous “Bran Nue Dae” is based on a 1990 Aussie stage musical, and while opened up for the screen by director/co-adapter Rachel Perkins, it retains that dated once-almost-hip look — like Up With People, or in this case, Up With Aborigines. Offering blandly stereotypical characters in a trite road-trip narrative, it’s genial but too silly for most grownups, and likely to impress few “High School Musical”-indoctrinated kids: There’s scant real dancing, mostly forgettable, showtune-type songs and no ethnic authenticity. TV sales rep its strongest offshore prospects.

His evangelical mother pointing him toward the priesthood, earnest young Willie (Rocky McKenzie) attends a Catholic boarding school in 1969 Perth, but runs away protesting its strict ways. With Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush, hamming) in hot pursuit, he heads homeward to Broome, acquiring traveling companions including rascally hobo Uncle Tadpole (Ernie Dingo) and two white hippie tourists (Missy Higgins, Tom Budge). Perfs and humor are broad, numbers sloppily staged and edited. Some will find the energy infectious enough to overlook the so-so material and packaging, but the pic’s recycled musical conventions compare weakly with Perkins’ more adventurous 2001 “One Night the Moon.”

Bran Nue Dae



A BND the Film PYT presentation of an Impress Telefilm production. (International sales: Bankside Films, London.) Produced by Robyn Kershaw, Graeme Isaac. Executive producers, Christopher Mapp, Matthew Street, David Whealy. Directed by Rachel Perkins. Screenplay, Reb Cribb, Perkins, Jimmy Chi, based on the stage musical by Chi and Kuckles.


Camera (color), Andrew Lesnie; editor, Rochelle Oshlack; music, Cezary Skubiszewski, Chi, Kuckles, Patrick Duttoo Bin Amat, Garry Gower, Michael Manolis Mavromatis, Stephen Pigram; production designer, Felicity Abbott. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 13, 2009. Running time: 84 MIN.


Rocky McKenzie, Jessica Mauboy, Ernie Dingo, Missy Higgins, Geoffrey Rush, Deborah Mailman, Tom Budge, Magda Szubanski, Ningali Lawford-Wolf, Stephen Baamba Albert, Dan Sultan.

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