MCC231 Australian Cinema – Critical Review and Bibliography
By: Claire Darling

 

'Boytown'

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Director: Kevin Carlin- directed ‘The Extra’ (2005), and the telemovie ‘Little Oberon’ (2005)
Producer: Mick Molloy- produced ‘Crackerjack’ (2002)
Greg Sitch- one of the producers on ‘Bad Eggs’ (2004)
Executive Producer: Greg Sitch- executive producer on ‘Crackerjack’ (2002)
Writers: Mick Molloy, Richard Molloy- the writing team behind ‘Crackerjack’ (2002)
Co-Producer: Richard Molloy
Cinematography: Mark Wareham- cinematographer for ‘The Extra’ (2005)
Production Designer: Penny Southgate
Editor: Angie Higgins
Music by: Gareth Skinner
Production Company: Molloy Boy Productions- ‘Crackerjack’ (2002)
A Film Finance Corporation Australia presentation of a Film Victoria, Network Ten and Molloy Boy production.
Australian Distributor: Roadshow Entertainment
International Distribution: Element Films International

Genre: Comedy
Australian/New Zealand Cinema Release date: 19th October 2006- 202 cinemas around Aus.
Australian DVD Release date: 21st February 2007
Australian Premiere: 6th October 2006- Melbourne
Australian Box Office- 1st week: $756,605
                                           2nd week: $478,858
                                           3rd week: $362,682
                                           4th week: $159,416
       5th week: $41,152- Box office information found online at: (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/intl/australia/?p=.htm&wk=42&yr=2006)
Grosse Box Office Takings: $3, 135, 972
Classification: M- Moderate Course Language
Running Time: 88mins

 

Principal Cast and Characters

Glenn Robbins as Benny G- Also seen in ‘Lantana’ and on television in Kath & Kim, The
Panel and Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures.
Mick Molloy as Tommy Boy- Also seen in ‘Crackerjack’ and ‘Bad Eggs’. On television in The
Mick Molloy Show and on radio as part of the Martin/Molloy show. 
Bob Franklin as Bobby Mac- Also seen in ‘Bad Eggs’ and ‘The Extra’                
Wayne Hope as Carl-            Also seen in ‘The Castle’                                                    
Gary Eck as Corey-                Also seen in ‘You Can’t Stop the Murders’                         
Sally Phillips as Holly-           Also seen in ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’, ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’ and ‘Mean Machine’                                          
Lachy Hulme as Marty Boomstein- Also seen in ‘Let’s Get Skase’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘The Matrix
  Revolutions’                                                 
Lois Ramsey as Gran-            Also seen in ‘Crackerjack’ and ‘Road to Nhill’
Sarah Walker as Katie                                                                                                       
Victoria Hill as Rosalita                                                                                                     
The film also features cameos by Tony Martin, Josh Lawson, Ed Kavalee, Akmal Saleh, James Mathison and Ella Hooper                                                            
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Reviews

   www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1756113.htm

   http://www.theage.com.au/news/film-reviews/boytown/2006/10/18/1160850994215.html

www.variety.com/review/VE1117931825.html?categoryid=31&cs=1&p=0

http://www.smh.com.au/news/film-reviews/boytown/2006/10/18/1160850994201.html

www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=12360&s=Reviews

http://www.cinephilia.net.au/show_detailed_review.php?movieid=3282&link=australia

Interviews

Interviews with the characters, Tommy Boy, Benny G, Bobby Mac, Carl and Corey available on the official Boytown website: www.boytownmovie.com.au, as well as interviews with the actors conducted by Tony Martin for Triple M, Hamish and Andy, Lowie from Hot30 and Matt and Jo from Fox FM.An Interview with Mick Molloy, with comments from Wayne Hope and Glenn Robbins are the basis for the Sydney Morning Herald article titled, ‘Boys just want to have fun’ (19th October 2006). Available online at   http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2006/10/18/1160850996576.html?page=2The 7.30 Report also interviewed Mick Molloy in regards to his new film discussing not only acting, but also writing, this aired 17th October 2006 and the transcript is available online at:http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2006/s1767284.htmAn Interview with Mick Molloy and Gary Eck conducted by Sean Lynch available online athttp://www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/boytown-int.htmThe DVD release of the film includes special features, one of which is a choice of commentary by Mick Molloy, Wayne Cooper, Glenn Robbins or Richard Molloy. Also within the special features is interviews conducted with the members of ‘Boytown’ by Tony Martin’s character for the documentary featured in the movie.

On-line Presence

There is not a great on-line presence of this film in comparison with more bigger budget Australian films and international films. However there are a few helpful websites out there that provide basic background information and a simple synopsis of the film. There are many reviews by critics, as well as blogs about the film posted by the general public, to provide a number of different views on the film, available online. I found it interesting that the imaginary band that the film is based on actually has a real online presence with their own official website and a MySpace page to appeal to younger audiences that are infatuated with the this phenomenon.  I did find it difficult to find interviews with the production team behind the film both before and after the films release. I did not manage to find much information on the film in print as it is such a recent film and also it’s low profile as an Australian film. I’ve listed here some useful websites in regards to the film, however you will find that some of them just repeat the same information found on other sites.

Not only is there an official website for the film (www.boytownmovie.com.au) that includes interviews, biographies of the characters, photographs from the premieres, music from the film and box office details, but there is also an official MySpace page. The page has film clips that feature in the movie, as well as photographs of the characters and a place for fans to comment on ‘Boytown’, this can be found online at:
 http://www.myspace.com/boytown

The Australian Film Commission provides information regarding the production team, cast, a short synopsis and release details on their website:
www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes06/feature_162.aspx

The Internet Movie Database once again provides basic production information regarding the film, along with a synopsis. It also permits user comments from the public and has various message boards about different aspects of the film found online at:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472615/

Urban Cinefile provides minimal production details and a short synopsis, along with 2 reviews of the film found online at:
 http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=12360&s=Reviews

Although hated by any academic or university employee, so I highly suggest you do not include it in a reference list or quote it, Wikipedia does provide basic information regarding the film and provides links to other websites you might find helpful. Found online at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BoyTown

Short Synopsis

Benny G, a member of the Australian boyband that was the biggest and first in the world during the 1980’s, ‘Boytown’, decides they need a revival after hearing a remake of one of their songs on the radio. He gets the band back together and they initially release two singles similar to what they made 10 years previous and these flop. However a chance encounter with one of their, now middle-aged, fans provides inspiration for new songs that appeal to their now older fans. They release an album about dishpan hands, picking the kids up from school, that ‘time’ of the month and other such concerns of middle-aged women. The album is a worldwide hit and they embark on a world tour (The ‘Love Handles’ tour). Along the way there are also the trials and tribulations of Benny G’s personal life with his wife and daughter, as well as conflicts within the band. These arise through Benny G’s selfishness the first time the band was famous when he ditched them and their Grammy’s performance to go solo, as well as touching on infidelity issues concerning Benny G, his wife and his best friend, also ‘Boytown’ member Tommy Boy.

Personal Commentary and Critical Analysis

Personal Comments
This film is a light-hearted satirical look at the ‘boyband’ phenomenon and doesn’t require too much thinking in order to enjoy it. The catchy songs, whether the songwriting is good or not, get stuck in your head and the extremely bad dance moves attempted by middle aged comedians are just funny to watch without anything else. Although there is no complicated or spectacular filmmaking apparent with this film, the transition between video-clip and concert style to naturalistic filming provides good contrast and interest. I enjoyed the film, but I cannot say that I would want to watch it over and over, perhaps one more glance just for the daggy dance moves and that’s about it. I feel like it’s just an extended sketch comedy and doesn’t reach its full potential in terms of observations of the real world and its social context. The ending ruined the entire film for me, as it didn’t fit into the flow of the film and seemed unnecessary for the type of film that it was. Let’s just say I didn’t get that warm and fuzzy feeling at the end of the film that I was expecting.
I believe the idea for the film is great because it is original and there are plenty of opportunities for comedy when it comes to boybands. Obviously I’m not the only one that thinks it is a successful idea, as when it was released there was talk of selling the rights in Hollywood (Sydney Morning Herald, 2006, pg.2).

I think the character development within the film provides all the interest for viewers, it attempts to make up for the simple filmmaking and basic plotline. Sally Phillips does a good job as the wife of Benny G executing a warm and believable character that brings the film back down to earth and places it in our own suburban backyard. Successfully partnered by her daughter, played by Sarah Walker. The other characters in the film do not have this sense of realism and tend to be on the over exaggerated side of character development. There is the token gay band member (who coincendently works on a construction site in his hard hat and short shorts much like a member of the Village People), the lazy, 40-something single man who lives with his gran, the big time band manager who thinks of no one but himself and his gold records and the family man who struggles with the conflicts of family life and his dream career. These are characters we have all seen before in countless movies and here they are just all thrown together to produce a few laughs, but not enough to make it a memorable combination and overcome the telemovie style filming for this feature film.

Genre
‘Boytown’ fits into the comedy genre and more specifically the ‘comedian’s comedy’, due to casting of actors already known for their comedic strengths in television, on stage and on radio.   Moran and Veith observe that, “…many films feature well-known funnymen…so that the film becomes in part a vehicle for the particular comedian’s gags, jokes and funny business.”(2006, pg. 64). As Mick Molloy is one of the screenwriters, as well as playing a central character, the film serves this purpose for him as he once again begins the movie as a lazy, laid back character much like his appearance in ‘Crackerjack’. A further fact supporting its identification as a ‘comedian’s comedy’ is the presence of well-known comedians, who first established themselves in radio and television (Moran &Veith, 2006, pg. 64).
The singing voices of he five band members are quite obviously not the real voices of the actors and we are aware of his due to our prior knowledge of the actors, their voices and their ability, or should I say their lack in ability to sing. Bordwell and Thompson state that, “When we do become aware that a sound is unfaithful to its source, that awareness is usually used for comic effect.”(2004, pg. 365). ‘Boytown’ achieves this and the comic effect is successful as ‘boyband’ voices are generalised as all sounding the same and having that young innocent sound, just as the voices of ‘Boytown’ have. I personally found this element of the film frustrating as it broke up the realistic nature of the film and it became a gag or sketch style instead of a feature length comedy film. 

Inspiration
Screenwriters Richard and Mick’s inspiration for the idea came from a sketch brought to Mick by fellow comedian Glenn Robbins in the late 90’s that consequently appeared on Mick’s short lived comedy television program, ‘The Mick Molloy Show’.

Critical Uptake
Almost all the reviews I came across agreed that yes this is a great idea for a film, but the filmmakers did not fully reach the potential of the concept. Jake Wilson (2006) of The Age wrote, “If movie reviews were school reports, Mick Molloy's would read "Shows promise, needs to try harder". David Stratton, of ‘At The Movies’ also supports this saying on the October 18 2006 episode that, “I think it’s a great idea, a really good concept… I think the problem with this film is the script. I just think it hasn't been worked on enough before they filmed it. It just didn't make me laugh.”
The most commonly complimented aspect of the film was the lyrics of the songs, written by Mick and Richard Molloy. Kuipers (2006) of Variety indicated that, “These lyrically clever (from screenwriters Mick and Richard Molloy) and perfectly arranged mock soft-rock tunes are easily the funniest thing about the film.” In Wilson’s review found in The Age he also agrees that the parodic songs provide some of the few golden moments of the film (2006).
Margaret Pomeranz (2006) tends to wrap up in one sentence the general concensus, among Australian reviewers, about Carlin’s film. She says, “It’s maybe not an Oscar-winning film, but it has a lot of heart and it just strikes a feel-good chord.”
The critics also found it difficult to avoid comparing the film with the previous Molloy Boy Production ‘Crackerjack’ that had done so well at the box office and with the critics. It is suggested that ‘Boytown’ does not reach the same level of comedy or realism of Mick Molloy’s first feature. However in their comparisons of Carlin’s previous work on ‘The Extra’ they tend to agree that neither film reaches any dizzying heights and just struggle for laughs. Kuipers (2006) indicating these criticisms through his statement that, “Kevin Carlin's pedestrian direction reps no advancement on his lackluster 2005 debut "The Extra."

Australian Context
The film fits quite nicely with Gillard’s description of what is characteristic of Australian film comedy, which is a notion of quirkiness (Gillard, 2007, pg. 87). He goes on to define this term as something unexpected and related to a peculiar behavioural habit (Gillard, 2006, pg. 89). ‘Boytown’ definitely meets these criteria as it is based on the peculiar behaviours relating to membership within a boyband. The ending is also extremely unexpected and peculiar, hence it is not just the concept of the film that exudes quirkiness, but also specific parts of the film for example the ending. Tom O’Regan (1996) suggests that Australian film has to do something different in order to survive as Hollywood tends to dominate the English-speaking cinema, hence Australian movies must stand out in some way. Quite often this occurs through each films quirkiness, its uniqueness and unexpectedness much like Carlin’s film ‘Boytown.
The film is also identifiably Australian due to the environment in which it is set. Filmed and set in Melbourne, Victoria it follows the everyday lives of five Australian men. These lives imitate those of everyday Australians that the filmmakers hope are watching the film. The exploration of the Australian social context may not be in depth however it is present and allows the audience to relate to the everyday situations faced.
‘Boytown’ takes the characters out of their mundane Australian lives and places them into the spotlight of the music industry. They travel the world, although there is no clear imagery to suggest they’ve left the country just a few words to let you know which city they’re in. The film indicates the different receptions these Australian blokes receive around the world.
I don’t think this film has enough exposure, critical acclaim or is even good enough to make an impact on the world stage of cinema and put Australia on the map in terms of cinematic prowess. Its release in only Australia, New Zealand and Greece (DVD) immediately hinders its chances of exposing Australia to the world. However if the idea is good enough for Hollywood interest, perhaps even if the film is not, Australian writers and filmmakers must be doing something right with their quirky comedies.

Summing Up
Even if it’s just for the few moments of 1980’s nostalgia that I’m sure will get some laughs, even if it’s just through the embarrassment of what you once thought was cool, this film is worth a look. I don’t suggest you go into the film looking for a great cinematic experience though. If you can get past the badly mismatched singing voices with characters (about 10-20 years too young) and the highly unexpected ending, which I won’t spoil for those of you who are yet to see it, then this film is harmless fun and will make you laugh. And no doubt after the film you’ll be walking around singing “woh oh oh woh Boytown Boytown!!”

Past Works of Principal Crew and Cast members

Kevin Carlin- His primary experience is in the direction of drama series on television, for example Blue Heelers, All Saints, Headland, Stingers and Always Greener. This is evident in ‘Boytown’ as the film appears more telemovie like than feature film, however this experience would have helped in the direction of the family scenes involving Benny G and Tommy Boy. Although this does hinder the concert and video clip scenes. His one previous feature, ‘The Extra’ was also a comedy that did not receive the best reviews, however did result in a few chuckles much like ‘Boytown’

Mick Molloy- His first feature film, ‘Crackerjack’ that he appeared in and wrote was highly regarded within the Australian film industry. It was the most successful Australian film of 2002. It has in common with ‘Boytown’ its unique idea and quirkiness however his second foray into the feature film industry is nowhere near as impressive.

Glenn Robbins- Primarily known as a comedian, not actor, Glenn has appeared on television shows including The Panel, Kath & Kim, Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures, as well as appearing on various sketch comedy shows during the 90’s such as Full Frontal. His only previous feature film experience came in ‘Lantana’ a far cry from the comedy style of ‘Boytown’.

Mark Wareham- He also worked on Carlin’s only other feature film ‘The Extra’. A similar style of filming was utilised for both, without any groundbreaking remarkable images and cinematography observant in either, just solid realistic style filming.

References

Online

www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes06/feature_162.aspx
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472615/
www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1756113.htm
http://www.theage.com.au/news/film-reviews/boytown/2006/10/18/1160850994215.html
www.boytownmovie.com.au
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2006/10/18/1160850996576.html?page=2   http://www.boxofficemojo.com/intl/australia/?p=.htm&wk=42&yr=2006 (box office information)
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/09/14/1063478063171.html  (information regarding Glenn Robbins)
http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/ReadingRoom/film/dbase/ (information regarding ‘Crackerjack’ and ‘The Extra’)

Books

Moran, A., and Vieth, E. 2006 Film in Australia: An Introduction, Melbourne:   
   Cambridge University Press.
Gillard, G. 2008 Ten Types of Australian Film: Second Edition, Perth: Murdoch
   University.
Bordwell, D., and Thompson, K. 2004 Film Art; An Introduction, New York:
   MGraw-Hill.
O’Regan, T. 1996 Australian National Cinema, London: Routledge.