Twenty-one-year-old debuting writer-director-actor Abe Forsythe spoofs the legend of Australia’s most famous outlaw, and the current Heath Ledger pic, “Ned Kelly,” in this low-budget laffer. The crude reliance on scatological humor will alienate sophisticated audiences, but, if successfully marketed, the younger set should embrace this disrespectful approach to a subject every Aussie kid learned in school. Presence of local TV stars in cameo roles will add to “Ned’s” appeal Down Under, but pic looks to be too local to have many commercial prospects abroad except, possibly, ancillary in the U.K.
It’s not the first time the Kelly legend has been the subject of a movie spoof; 10 years ago, Yahoo Serious made “Reckless Kelly,” which, in similarly irreverent vein, poked fun at the Robin Hoodlike Irish working-class bandit who wore homemade armor; the new film brings few fresh ingredients to the brew.
Forsythe, the son of talented thesp Drew Forsythe (who narrates) was inspired by the films of the Farrelly brothers and Monty Python, among others, and though “Ned” never reaches the inspired heights of the best of those trailblazers, there are enough laughs to keep undemanding audiences happy.
In this version, Ned is the son of a mad farmer (Jeremy Sims) who grows rubber. The lad’s ambition is to be a magician, so he leaves home on his pony to seek his fame and fortune.
In Glenrowan, Ned sees a newspaper ad seeking an outlaw to join the Hughes Gang (“Must have own horse!”) and applies for the position. The other members of the gang are Dan Hughes (Nick Flint), who soon becomes annoyed that Ned grabs all the headlines and that the papers start referring to “The Kelly Gang”; Joe Byrne (Josef Ber), a cross-dresser who steals more ladies’ clothes than hard cash; and Steve Hart (Damon Herriman), a strange loner with a fetish about being shot in the face.
Since the Hughes/Kelly Gang repeatedly rob the same bank, they don’t make a lot of money, but they become local heroes and catch the attention of the dastardly Gov. Sinclair (Felix Williamson), representative of the British Crown and hater of both the Irish and Australia, who provides much of the film’s humor as this kinky pillar of the Establishment. He’s seldom seen without his pet hamster and has a supply of handsome, near-naked male servants at his disposal. Using a voice similar to that employed by Peter Sellers when he imitated upper-class villains, Williamson is hilarious.
The other members of the cast do their best with their caricatured roles, but too often the reliance on toilet humor defeats them. There are some good gags (a bank teller presses an alarm button which releases a carrier pigeon which flies off to the police station) and there are some amusing examples of the kind of comic anachronism Bob Hope used to sock over so well (when confronted by a prostitute who claims to have worked at the Moulin Rouge, Dan Hughes remarks: “I hated that film!”) In one scene, members of the cast break into a cheerful rendition of “I Can See Clearly Now.”
Production values are strictly functional, but, at a crisp 81 minutes, including the obligatory outtakes which accompany the end credits, “Ned” certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome.