The profane denizens of a fictitious Sydney public-housing estate make a stumbling sojourn to a national landmark in the energetically lowbrow, sporadically funny and entirely Australian laffer “Housos vs. Authority.” A soft Nov. 1 opening failed to pull the legions of fans who have made the TV show on which it’s based a success, though local ancillary biz should be strong. Specialized milieu and thick local patois will limit prospects to comedy fests and undemanding cablers overseas.
Writer-director Paul Fenech has built a successful tube career on the foibles and adventures of the unsophisticated, ill-mannered and generally cringe-inducing Aussie suburbanites known by the pejorative term “bogan.”
The quartet at the heart of this narrative consists of the hyperactive Franky Falzoni (Fenech); bickering and perpetually high married couple Shazza and Dazza Jones (Elle Dawe, Jason “Jabba” Davis); and booze-swilling, eternally cheery New Zealand Maori Kev (Kevin Taumata). Constantly pursued by local police and enmeshed in an elaborate community ecosystem that includes a Lebanese gang, a pack of teenage junkies, the local biker club and various family members, these layabouts clearly expend more effort avoiding honest work than they would exerting themselves in real jobs.
When Shazza discovers her mother in Alice Springs is terminally ill, they’re off on the 2,000-mile journey to the center of Australia, where Franky takes a moment to spray his graffiti tag on the iconic sandstone formation Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock.
Fenech’s ace in the hole as a writer-director is a tangible and quintessentially Australian benevolence toward, and even affection for, these schemers and their lowbrow pursuits. His egalitarian philosophy seems to be that if there’s enough transgressive behavior and everyone is equally offended, the default reaction will be laughter.
Many of the cast members have appeared in Fenech’s previous projects, either as different characters or as earlier versions of their incarnations here. Everyone is adequately plugged into the irreverent spirit of the material, though it’s Dawe, as the unrepentantly loutish Shazza, who exhibits the most courageously off-color behavior. The numerous Australian personalities with cameos include Barry Crocker, who played ground-zero bogan Barry McKenzie in a pair of 1970s films, and celebrity criminal Chopper Read, whom Eric Bana played in the 2000 film “Chopper.”
The tech package is busy, with Fenech’s cartoonish direction complementing the material’s anarchic tone. Opening dedication is to popular actor and television personality Ian “Turps” Turpie, a Fenech regular who died earlier this year.