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Not Suitable for Children

Though its crude premise will raise expectations, "Not Suitable for Children" is a flaccid Australian romantic comedy that's unlikely to satisfy even the most laugh-starved auds.

With:
With Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook, Ryan Corr, Bojana Novakovic, Kathryn Beck, Alice Parkinson, Lulu McClatchy, Daniel Henshall.

Though its crude premise will raise expectations, “Not Suitable for Children” is a flaccid Australian romantic comedy that’s unlikely to satisfy even the most laugh-starved auds. Pic’s main attraction is handsome star Ryan Kwanten (“True Blood”), playing a Sydney slacker who has a testicular-cancer scare that heightens his urge to procreate, but it’s his beaming co-star Sarah Snook who is the sole delight of this otherwise stillborn effort. Attempt to combine Richard Curtis-style charm with Judd Apatow-like male angst will miss both markets and exile the pic to B.O. oblivion.

Privileged party dude Jonah (Kwanten) runs raves for profit at the run-down, multi-story residence he owns in Sydney’s fashionable inner city. His business partners are smart, sassy, child-hating Stevie (Snook, fleetingly seen in Julia Leigh’s “Sleeping Beauty”) and drugged-up music man Gus (Ryan Corr, briefly in “Where The Wild Things Are”). But Jonah’s appetite for the high life plummets, and the party enterprise is threatened, when he discovers he has testicular cancer; while the news that he must have a testicle removed momentarily shocks him, it’s the revelation that he will be infertile post-op that really takes the lead out of his pencil.

With three weeks of fertility to go, Jonah decides to pursue fatherhood before it’s too late; he unsuccessfully approaches several women, including an ex-g.f. (Bojana Novakovic), and considers a formal agreement with a lesbian couple. The outrageous concept strains against the script’s mostly polite approach, which strenuously avoids jokes rather than risk having laughs fall flat. Things warm up, in terms of charm and sexiness, when Stevie becomes tempted by financial incentives Jonah lays out to increase his appeal as a co-parent.

With Kwanten failing to spark as a male lead, bringing Snook to the fore supplies the pic with an overdue lift. Though neither as slender nor as beautiful as her onscreen competitors, the actress has a killer smile that gets the audience on her side, even if the film never rewards this rooting interest.

Amid a huge supporting ensemble that doesn’t make much of an impression, only Alice Parkinson and Lulu McClatchy as a hot (and not) lesbian couple have any lingering resonance. In a role that seems inspired by Rhys Ifans’ scruffy flatmate turn in “Notting Hill,” Corr is expected to supply comic relief without the benefit of one-liners or amusing behavior.

Seven years after his short “The Savior” picked up an Oscar nom, helmer Peter Templeman delivers a fluid package that is often visually inventive without being obtrusive, while HD lensing by Lachlan Milne emphasizes warm colors that catch the vibrancy of Sydney’s trendy Newtown district.

A pumped-up pop soundtrack is energetic, but only throws the yarn’s inherent lethargy into high relief. Other tech credits are solid.

Not Suitable for Children

Australia

Production: An Icon Film Distribution release of a Screen Australia presentation of a Wild Eddie production in association with Fulcrum Media Finance, Screen NSW, Frame Set & Match, Exit Films. (International sales: Arclight Intl., Los Angeles.) Produced by Jodi Matterson. Executive producers, Darren Ashton, Gary Hamilton, Bruna Papandrea. Directed by Peter Templeman. Screenplay, Michael Lucas based on a story by Lucas, Templeman.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Lachlan Milne; editor, Matthew Walker; music, Matteo Zingales, Jono Ma; production designer, Elizabeth Mary Moore; art director, Amanda Sallybanks; costume designer, Gypsy Taylor; sound (Dolby Digital), Brooke Trezise; casting, Nikki Barrett. Reviewed at Sony Theatrette, Sydney, May, 30, 2012. (In Sydney Film Festival -- opener.) Running time: 95 MIN.

Cast: With Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook, Ryan Corr, Bojana Novakovic, Kathryn Beck, Alice Parkinson, Lulu McClatchy, Daniel Henshall.

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