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Monday, 26 February 2018


(PG) ★½

Director: Stephen Amis.

Cast: Shane Jacobson, Magda Szubanski, Nicholas Hammond, Julia Zemiro, Manu Feildel, Frederik Simpson, Lara Robinson.

"I'm off to find the screenwriters."
Not many Australian films make it to our screens each year, and even fewer get funding from Screen Australia.

So on the one hand, it feels unpatriotic to slag off an Aussie movie, but on the other hand it's galling that this is the type of crap Screen Australia chooses to fund. There are dozens and dozens of great unproduced scripts out there, and yet this is the type of tripe that makes it into our cinemas on a wide release? Seriously?

Regardless of its country of origin, The BBQ is a shit film. Its screenplay is so horribly boring and inane that it renders the entire film dull and almost irredeemable.

The plot, such as it is, sees alleged Captain Cook descendent Dazza (Jacobson) entered into a barbecue competition against his will despite having recently poisoned half of his neighbourhood with some bad prawns. The competition causes friction with his wife Diane (Zemiro) and sees him go up against cocky French chef Andre Mont Blanc (Feildel) - the nemesis of Dazza's cooking instructor (Szubanski).

Let's get some niceties out of the way. Jacobson gives his all and is his usual likeable self, while Szubanski has fun chewing the scenery. Similarly, Hammond understands the high-level farce this is aiming to be and nails it, and Zemiro has a crack despite getting a poorly written character.

And that's it. The rest of the film is abysmal and it all comes down to an absolutely woeful script. Aside from the fact it's rarely amusing, it's not compelling in the slightest. Dazza is an unwilling protagonist, so the film struggles to find a reason for him (and thus the audience) to care about the situation he is in. To make things worse, The BBQ inexplicably raises the stakes (mmm... barbecue steaks) by manufacturing animosity between Dazza and Diane that is disproportionate to the situation, which does nothing but make Diane immensely unlikeable.

A subplot involving his son Jayden (Simpson) trying to uncover the truth about his family's Captain Cook connection is superfluous, but even worse, it's utterly boring. As is a diversion to visit a wagyu beef farmer, which takes up almost the entire second act.

On top of this, the film's "villain", played to the best of his ability by affable celeb chef Fieldel, is only the villain because we're told he is. We never see him do anything remotely villainous beyond being a bit arrogant (possibly to hide Fieldel's acting deficiencies). When the film finally realises it needs him to be a proper bad guy, it's too late, we don't care, and they can't even commit to it anyway. There's no proof of his villainy, nor is there a great comeuppance. Maybe he wasn't the bad guy all along. Who knows? Who cares?

And then there's the fact large sections of the film feel like an ad, which is because the movie was partially bankrolled by IGA, Barbecues Galore and Heat Beads. What that amount of funding buys can be seen on the screen, quire regularly. Product placement is common these days - check out a Bond film made in the past two decades - but this pushes its placements beyond common decency.

And let's take a look at the casual racism going on here, which feels oh-so-Australian in its delivery. Every foreign character is a caricature revelling in stereotypical ideas - there's a Japanese guy chopping wood with his hands, an Indian guy obsessed with turmeric, the Frenchman is an arrogant chef, the Englishman is snooty and upper class, the American is basically a cowboy, and the Scotswoman is a crazy violent drunk. None of these characters feel like real people - they're plot devices whose nationalities are played for laughs.

But the biggest crime is that The BBQ is boring. It's also unfunny, so on top of not caring about proceedings, you're not laughing either. So many good, talented people were involved in this film, which makes its failings all the more insulting.

Worst film of 2018 so far, and the worst Australian film for a while.

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