Swinging Safari

‘Swinging Safari’ is the latest film from director Stephan Elliot. Famous for overseeing ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, Elliot’s career since has been hit and miss. Films such as ‘Eye of the Beholder’ and ‘A Few Best Men’ have diluted the welcome audiences afforded him. Comedy can be difficult to do with everyone’s humour different. ‘Swinging Safari’ is definitely better than his previous work. Mostly forgoing crudity in favour of witty characterisation, the cinematic larrikin in Elliot is still evident with a wink in the eye never too far away.

Fourteen year old Jeff (Atticus Marsh) is living in the 1970’s with a carefree attitude. Continually searching for adventure, he finds it when a 200 ton whale is washed ashore. Sparking interest in the town in which it appears, the whale makes Jeff’s surrounds a tourist mecca. This is much to the delight of a few of the residents including Keith (Guy Pearce), Kay (Kylie Minogue) and Jo (Radha Mitchell). Indulging in the sexual revolution as well as boozy outings, the adults have a whale of a time in an era where taste was a rare commodity.

After the absolute drudgery of his previous films, ‘Swinging Safari’ finds Elliot almost back on form. It still isn’t as great as ‘Priscilla’ but more bearable to watch than ‘A Few Best Men’. This is due to its abundance of charm. Whilst the performances of Minogue and company are ear-piercingly over the top, Marsh’s role as Jeff effectively hits home the growing pains of youth. Jeff anchors the story of love, passion and loss in 70’s suburbia. This gives much more weight to the script where, even in its’ cringe-worthy moments, draws you back into his plight.

The production designer has a field day in ‘Swinging Safari’ with nearly every 70’s artefact lovingly on display. For ageing audiences it may become an almost uncomfortable trip back in time with the decade’s ultra-tackiness alarmingly seen. It also provided a tinge of sadness for the days when young adults communicated better and were allowed to make their own risqué fun. The design does occasionally distract from the often choppy story but the look, music and atmosphere are spot-on.

‘Swinging Safari’ doesn’t always work and skims the surface of 70’s clichés. But it’s clearly the best film Elliot has done in years with a strong cast with his directorial focus seen. Viewers may be alarmed at the indulgences the era brought but it raises a few chuckles which is the aim of any movie embracing the ‘comedy’ tag.

Rating out of 10: 6

Pitch Perfect 3

Since 2011, the ‘Pitch Perfect’ series has been very popular. A simple tale of a group of female singers wanting to make it to the big-time has struck a chord with audiences. Taking a leaf out of the current craze of countless TV singing and dancing shows, the combination of both delivers the goods for those wanting a fun musical comedy. Returning for a third helping ‘Pitch Perfect 3’ aims to close the franchise with an aria of lyrical silliness before the final curtain.

Struggling to go on with their lives and work ‘real’ jobs, The Barden Bellas singing troupe feel lost. When former member Aubrey (Anna Camp) plots to reunite the group for a European tour, her cohorts eagerly agree. Among them are Becca (Anna Kendrick) and Pat ‘Fat’ Amy (Rebel Wilson). Ready to battle it out with their voices, they hit various personal and professional obstacles. Determined to win despite these hiccups, the ladies aim to band together to reach the high notes of victory.

‘Pitch Perfect 3’ plays like a comic-book superhero movie without the special powers. It’s also without much substance as it loosely cobbles together a string of scenes without much depth. But you don’t see these films for that as they are meant to entertain providing a modicum of toe-tapping tunes. It mostly succeeds even if the singing feels too slick and professional for these so-called amateur singers. The story also groans under the weight of too many characters with several receiving short shrift. Given the brief run-time, it may have been better to reduce the cast or a few of its many story-lines.

The franchise hasn’t been known for its acting with ‘Pitch Perfect 3’ having little of it. The women are there to look good while singing the auto-tuned heavy cover songs. Only John Lithgow, as Pat’s father, stands out because of his truly appalling attempt at an Australian accent. This gives a lot of unintentional humour and brightens up a rather pedestrian script. Trish Sie’s direction comes alive during the well-staged song numbers with the lush cinematography wringing much from the European locales which successfully teases out their vibrant colours.

‘Pitch Perfect 3’ isn’t great but nor is it unwatchable. If you want to see a bunch of ladies get up to musical hijinks then this is the film for you. ‘Pitch Perfect 3’ is harmless fluff that at least isn’t boring with any bum notes vanishing before the melodic finale.

Rating out of 10: 5