BOYTOWN – POPULATION FIVE

Tegan March
Critical Review & Bibliography
MED321 – Australian Cinema
Unit Coordinator – Garry Gillard

Section One

 

Film Information

Title – Boytown
Tagline – Population Five
Genre – Comedy
Classification - M
Running Time – 88 minutes
Production Company – Molloy Boy Productions
Distributor – Roadshow Films
Box Office Gross – $3.1million in Australia, gaining a rating of 6th highest in the country for 2006, behind Happy Feet, Kenny, Jindabyne, Ten Canoes and Kokoda.
Release Dates – 6 October 2006 – Melbourne Premiere
                             19 October 2006 – Australian Cinema Release
                             21 February 2007 – Australian DVD Release


                             25 April 2007 – Greek DVD Release

 

 

Crew

Director – Kevin Carlin
An accomplished director in the fields of comedy and drama, his pilot episode of the Australian television series Always Greener was nominated for an International Emmy of Best Drama. Kevin co-produced, co-wrote and directed Eric, a series starring Eric Bana, and in 2005 directed The Extra, with Jimeon. In the same year he directed the telemovie Little Oberon, which was nominated for an AFI award for Best Telemovie.

Writers – Mick Molloy & Richard Molloy
Mick Molloy is a writer, actor and producer working in film, television and radio, on top of being one of Australia’s most recognisable comedians. In 2003 Mick was named Australian Star of the Year at the Australian Movie Convention as well as being awarded The Screen Producers Association of Australia Feature Film Producer of the Year award for Crackerjack (Paul Moloney, 2002), which is still the most successful Australian feature film at the Australian box office since its release in 2002.
His brother, Richard Molloy, has worked with Mick previously, co-writing Crackerjack, The Mick Molloy Show, and The Nation, as well as contributing as Production Manager on another film starring Mick, Bad Eggs (Tony Martin, 2003).

Cinematographer – Mark Wareham
Mark has worked on a number of well known films in many capacities, including Cinematographer, Camera Operator, and Director of Photography. His cinematography credits include Joanne Lees – Murder in the Outback (Tony Tilse, 2007), Small Claims (Cherie Nowlan, 2004), The Extra (Kevin Carlin, 2005), and Clubland (Cherie Nowlan, 2007). He worked as a Camera Operator on the American horror film House of Wax (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2005), and Kokoda (Alister Grierson, 2006), a recent Australian release. Other large American films he has worked on include The Condemned (Scott Wiper, 2007) and Anacondas 2: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (Dwight H. Little, 2004), both of which he contributed to as Director of Photographer. Mark was nominated for an AFI for Clubland.

Producer – Greg Sitch & Mick Molloy (John Molloy & Richard Molloy – co producers)
Greg Sitch is a partner of the Australian entertainment law firm Hart Sitch Lawyers. He has been the principal legal advisor to many of Australia's most successful film and television programs over the last decade. His credits as a Producer in Australian features films include Crackerjack, Macbeth (Geoffrey Wright, 2006), and Bad Eggs.
John Molloy has been involved with a number of Mick Molloy’s previous ventures, including Bad Eggs and Crackerjack, but his acting credits surpass his producing affiliations. He has featured in Macbeth, Blue Heelers, Kath & Kim, The Nation, Love is a Four-Letter Word, and even has a small part in Boytown as ‘Frankie’.


 

 

Cast

Benny G                     Glenn Robbins (Kath & Kim, The Panel)
Tommy Boy               Mick Molloy (Crackerjack, Bad Eggs)
Bobby Mac                Bob Franklin (Bad Eggs, Stupid Stupid Man)
Carl                             Wayne Hope (The Castle, Stupid Stupid Man)
Corey                          Gary Eck (The Nation, The 50 Foot Show)
Holly                           Sally Phillips (Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary)
Marty Boomstein      Lachy Hulme (Macbeth, Let’s Get Skase)
Gran                           Lois Ramsey (Crackerjack, Prisoner)
Katie                           Sarah Walker (Silversun, Noah & Saskia)

Plus cameos by – Josh Lawson (Sea Patrol, Blue Heelers), Akmal Saleh (Thank God You’re Here, The Wrong Way Home), Ed Kavalee (Thank God You’re Here, The Wrong Way Home), James Mathison (Australian Idol, Channel V), Tony Martin (Thank God You’re Here, The D Generation) and Ella Hooper (Killing Heidi).


 

 

Interviews

Cast interview with Lowie on Hot 30
http://www.boytownmovie.com.au/_sound/hot30_1.mp3

Cast interview with Hamish & Andy
http://www.boytownmovie.com.au/_sound/handa_1.mp3

Mick Molloy speaks to The Cage
http://www.boytownmovie.com.au/_sound/cage.mp3

Cast interview with Tony Martin on Triple M’s “Get This” (podcast)
http://www.boytownmovie.com.au/download.html

Glenn Robbins speaks to The Shebang
http://www.boytownmovie.com.au/_sound/shebang.mp3

Glenn Robbins speaks to Matt & Jo on Fox FM
http://www.boytownmovie.com.au/_sound/mattandjo_1.mp3

Tony Martin & Mick Molloy interview with the Daily Telegraph
http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22051878-5012964,00.html

Mick Molloy & Gary Eck interview Web Wombat
http://www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/boytown-int.htm

Mick Molloy Promotional Interviews aired on Channel Ten
http://video.aol.com/video-detail/boytown-interview-5/2778797057

Glenn Robbins interview with Adelaide Now
http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,20549920-5006343,00.html

Mick Molloy speaks to The Age on Live Daily
http://talk.livedaily.com/showthread.php?t=551674

Mick Molloy interview with The West
http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=24&ContentID=30154

 

 

Reviews

The Sydney Morning Herald
http://www.smh.com.au/news/film-reviews/boytown/2006/10/18/1160850994201.html
"The resurrection of middle-aged pop stars is a well-tested formula. But can a one-trick pony carry a movie?"

Variety
http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117931825.html?categoryid=31&cs=1&p=0
"Ensemble of popular TV performers and stand-up comics should help "BoyTown" to modest B.O. Down Under, but this isn't likely to dent the charts abroad."

Urban Cinefile
http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=12360&s=Reviews
"Musically, however, it is hard to go along for the ride, while the sudden BoyTown resurgence and whirlwind world tour is pretty unbelievable, whirling above our heads."

Movie Review Zoo
http://moviereviewzoo.blogspot.com/2008/01/boytown-2006.html
"This ‘small’ Australian comedy isn’t big on laughs, but it does well to combine a unique concept (a middle-aged boy band, catering to mature-age women) with some nice character moments and understated acting."

Moviehole
http://www.moviehole.net/reviews/20061007_boytown.html
"If the new Aussie comedy “BoyTown” – the latest tummy tickler from Mick Molloy and the “Crackerjack” soldiers – was a piece of music, it’d be a sheet with a profusion of high tempo’s, with the only dip being its dipping finish."

Moviereview
http://www.moviereview.com.au/cfboytown.html
"What had been a terrific idea is squandered by self-satisfied, well-connected artists with no apparent faith in the redraft. There’s the real tragedy."

Swollen Pickles
http://www.swollenpickles.com/2006/10/29/boytown-movie-review/
"Unfortunately, beside a few gentle chuckles, the gags are very few and far between. The highlights of the film for me were the few scenes featuring the Grandma of Mick Molloy's character."

The Groggy Squirrel
http://www.thegroggysquirrel.com/articles/2006/10/29/boytown/
"Although it’s unlikely to become a classic of Australian cinema, it is a fun movie that provides a solid 88 minutes of entertainment."

The Age
http://www.theage.com.au/news/film-reviews/boytown/2006/10/18/1160850994215.html
"Golden moments surface as Mick Molloy and Glenn Robbins get the band back together."

CIA
http://thecia.com.au/reviews/b/boytown.shtml
"BoyTown is yet another in the long line of Martin/Molloy quirky comedies about Australian life."

At The Movies
http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1756113.htm
"It’s maybe not an Oscar-winning film, but it has a lot of heart and it just strikes a feel-good chord."

Web Wombat
http://www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/boytown.htm
"It's mammoth cast is both a blessing and a curse. Your expectations are set so high because of the names and familiar faces, it is almost impossible be satisfied with the outcome."

City Search
http://sydney.citysearch.com.au/music/viewContent/1119945819575/1137461359703
"In this, the return of BoyTown, we wonder at the years lost, how we managed to wade through the pop music landscape over the last decade-and-a-bit, how our lives may have been different if accompanied by a soundtrack provided by these five icons."

BG Reviews
http://www.reviews.blueguerilla.org/?p=43
"Unfortunately, unlike Crackerjack, this movie just isn’t funny."

Youth Media Australia
http://www.youngmedia.org.au/mediachildren/07_04/07_04_271_boytown.htm
"BoyTown is a light comedy, without much substance, which older adolescents may find entertaining."

Impulse Gamer
http://www.impulsegamer.com/dvdboytown.html
“The comedy in this movie is more of a gentle nature and I personally did not find myself belly laughing all the way through the way that I had expected.”

Michael DVD
http://www.michaeldvd.com.au/Reviews/Reviews.asp?ID=7537
“Boytown sits nicely with it's brother movie Crackerjack and it's cousins from Working Dog, The Dish and The Castle.”

 

 

Online Presence

Despite only having been released in Australian cinemas, Boytown has a stronger online presence than I was expecting, perhaps due to the involvement of quite a large number of well known Australian comedians and actors, in particular Mick Molloy, Glenn Robbins, Bob Franklin and Tony Martin, all of whom can currently be seen on various Australian television programs (Thank God You’re Here, Before the Game, Kath & Kim, Stupid Stupid Man, etc). The film features on quite a number of review sites, and has been deemed worthy of mention in the websites of a variety of Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. The most succinct resource for information regarding Boytown is the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com).

Other major Boytown sources include:

Boytown’s Official Website
http://www.boytownmovie.com.au/

Boytown’s Official Movie Trailer
http://www.boytownmovie.com.au/trailer.html

Boytown’s Myspace Profile
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=76513035

Boytown’s Wikipedia Entry
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BoyTown

Boytown’s IMDB Page
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472615/

 

 

Information Gathering

Boytown, having been limited to release only in Australian cinemas, and on DVD only in Australia and Greece, is not a particularly well known film from what I can gather. Despite a massive publicity push coming up to and immediately following its release, I could find no print literature regarding the film, perhaps due to the fact that it is a fairly recent production (2006). Searches on Google Scholar and the Murdoch Library database returned no matches. The large advertising campaign that accompanied Boytown’s release was helpful, however, in providing information via the official “band” website and “band profile” on myspace.

 

Section Two

 

Plot/Synopsis

Boytown (Kevin Carlin, 2006) is a light-hearted, quirky comedy following the desperate attempts of what was once “the greatest boy band in the world”, as its five members reunite and try to regain the success of their past. Boytown, after which the film is titled, comprises of Benny G (Glenn Robbins), who is now working as a physical education instructor at a local school, Carl (Wayne Hope), a homosexual forklift driver in denial of his sexuality, Corey (Gary Eck), a radio host for a remote rural station, Bobby Mac (Bob Franklin), who has taken up work as a literature lecturer, and Tommy Boy (Mick Molloy), who doesn’t appear to have done anything since the band broke up, aside from lie on his grandmother’s couch and bet on horse and greyhound races. After a failed attempt to re-enter the market in the exact same fashion as they had left it, attempting to match recent, much younger boy bands such as the Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, 98º and Westlife, the aging pop-stars realize that to be taken seriously, they need to act their age, and decide to test the untried waters of middle-aged boy bands. By tailoring their songs to the housewives that make up their rapidly growing fan-base, their success spirals skyward until things begin to fall apart as Boytown experiences internal rifts and bickering, in the course of which massive secrets, including a long buried love triangle, are revealed. The film ends on a shocking but not altogether sad note, as the band are killed in a plane accident on the way to the biggest performance of their careers. Although surprising, the conclusion maintains an air of triumph, as the band ‘go out on top’, like they had always planned.

Personal Commentary

Familiar with many of the actors involved with Boytown, I was expecting quite a funny film with clever references to everyday Australian life – the sort of comedy that is designed specifically for an Australian audience, and is the forte of the principal actors in this film. Many of them come from a television background, acting in comedy series’ centering on ‘normal’ Australian life, and I expected that this theme would transcend from their previous works into this film. However, I found myself quite disappointed. Not much about Boytown is amusing, let alone funny, and the plot was stretched so thin over such a long period that it was difficult at times to tell what the point of some scenes were. Having grown up in the late 80s and the 90s, I was familiar with the boy bands that the movie seeks to parody and poke fun at. I recognized the close references between Boytown’s “I Cry” video clip and one released fairly recently by the Backstreet Boys (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaZWQHzfGXs). However, it simply wasn’t funny to see grown men making themselves look just as ridiculous as the only vaguely younger men that are the brunt of the joke. The lip-syncing is terribly matched to the music tracks (particularly Bob Franklin’s dismal effort), and this doesn’t seem to be an intentional in-joke. The unexpected ending, which sees the deaths of all five band members in a plane crash, seemed to me to be inappropriate and in bad taste when considered in reference to similar celebrity deaths, such as R&B singer Aaliyah, who was killed in a plane crash, and Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, who was killed when the band’s tour bus was involved in an accident. Compared to classic Australian comedy films such as The Castle (Rob Sitch, 1997), The Craic (Ted Emery, 1999) and Molloy’s own Crackerjack (Paul Moloney, 2002); Boytown seems to miss some key element. Perhaps it is the fact that much of the boy band culture of the period it explores was imported from Britain and America, and as such, the film loses its natural Australian ‘quirkiness’, something which each of the other comedies have in spades1.

Production Circumstances

Mick Molloy states that upon deciding to write Boytown, he and brother Richard, bother of whom have extensive exposure to writing television comedy, consulted screenwriting manuals and different books relating to the practice, however, the motive behind the film seems to be much more simplistic than the writing process would suggest. Molloy himself states that the film “…was deliberately designed to make people laugh for 90 minutes and it has no loftier ambitions than that.”4 He explains in an interview with Sean Lynch for Web Wombat that each of the five leading roles were specifically written for the actors who play them, each of whom had worked with at least one of the other five actors on at least one television show or film in the past. “It’s really just an excuse to hang out with your mates,” Molloy says.5 The lead actors in the film did a fair amount of research for their roles by studying bands like the Backstreet Boys, Westlife and Blue, a member of which Gary Eck based his character, Corey, on. They watched backstage DVD footage and on-stage performances in order to gain a realistic idea of how members of boy bands acted both in front of crowds and away from the stage. Boytown was very highly publicised, despite that its cinematic release was limited to Australia. The fictional band of the film was promoted as if it were a real band, and the film’s soundtrack was one of the major driving forces of the advertising campaign. The film was released on 16 October, which falls in the first week(s) that school age children return to lessons after two weeks holidays. This was a time chosen to specifically target middle aged women, mothers and housewives, and to a lesser degree stay-at-home dads and middle aged men, who are not only the target audience of Boytown, the band, but also Boytown, the film.

Critical Uptake

Compared to other projects that the leading players in Boytown have undertaken, this film was not particularly well received, which is evident from the many mediocre and negative reviews it received (referenced above in Section One), and its lack of award nominations. Often compared to Mick Molloy’s previous, highly successful comedy, Crackerjack, which remains the top grossing Australian film of all time, Boytown has been criticized for ‘missing the mark’ and failing to overcome its script problems to deliver the expected ‘Australian comedy gold’. David Stratton of ABC’s television program At the Movies says of the film overall, “…I couldn't see the point of so many numbers at the expense of really well written and funny scenes. I wanted to laugh.”2 The film’s script has been criticized not only by Stratton for it’s excessive reliance on humorous musical numbers, but also for being too simplistic, better suited to a short television sketch, and certainly not involved enough to be sustained over an 88 minute feature film, while the lack of grounding in the creation of the leading characters makes their sudden rise to fame difficult to appreciate3. Although a lot of effort is put into parodying various well known boy bands, poking fun at the tradition of the 80s and 90s of clichéd songwriting, synchronized dance routines and squealing female fans, these scenes cannot carry the dragging weight of the otherwise bland scenes the fill the large voids in between. It has been suggested that the film was destined to be disappointing from the outset, considering the high concentration of highly appreciated Australian comedic talent involved – Mick Molloy, Glenn Robbins, Tony Martin, Bob Franklin – all of whom have been highly successful in their own rights. The exceedingly high expectations that come from the mere mention of these names together were far too unrealistic to ever be met. Despite having come in sixth in regards to box office takings for 2006 in Australia, pulling numbers equal to the much more serious Kokoda, it seems that on a broad scale, audiences were largely disappointed in Boytown, which had so much promise, but turned out to be entirely unmemorable.

Cast – Prior & Subsequent Works

Mick Molloy was no doubt disappointed that Boytown was unable to live up to the expectations that were set after the release and phenomenal success of Crackerjack, however, it’s lack of critical success does not appear to have dampened his spirits. Molloy, who comes from a background in television, his writing and acting credits including The Late Show and The Mick Molloy Show, has since returned to his roots to write and star in The Nation, which is based on a similar premise to his previous television endeavors. He has also recently starred on Thank God You’re Here, and has become a fixture on the Before the Game panel.

Glenn Robbins had an extensive career in television comedy prior to Boytown, acting on Kath & Kim, Something Stupid, Full Frontal, The Comedy Company, While You’re Down There, The Panel, Jimeion, and most notably personifying the traditional Aussie outback bushman, Russel Coight in Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures. Since the film’s release, Robbins has continued his work on Kath & Kim, as well as appearing on Thank God You’re Here, which he also wrote a number of episodes for as a creative consultant. Also recently aired was Robbins’ latest television game show venture, Out of the Question.

Bob Franklin is one of the only actors from Boytown to have had a fairly solid career in the Australian film industry as well as television. His acting credits in feature films prior to Boytown include Macbeth, Bad Eggs, The Craic, The Extra and You Can’t Stop the Murders. This is on top of acting roles in well known Australian television shows, such as Stupid Stupid Man, Eagle & Evans, Crashburn and The Micallef Program, and involvement as a writer in The Mick Molloy Show and The Russell Gilbert Show. Since appearing in Boytown, Franklin has continued his work on Stupid Stupid Man, acted for the television series The Librarians, and featured on Thank God You’re Here.

Gary Eck has a less notable acting career than the three leading men in Boytown, but has still been involved in well known Australian television shows previous to the film. His film career includes The Night We Called it a Day, Tragic Love (which he also directed), You Can’t Stop the Murders (which he also contributed to as a writer) and The Money. His writing credits include The 50 Foot Show, which makes up a large part of his career in entertainment, and later The Nation.

Wayne Hope came to Boytown with an extensive career playing small parts on a great number of Australian television comedies, including Micallef Tonight, Stingers, Blue Heelers, Round the Twist, The Adventures of Lano & Woodley, The Micallef Program, Mashall Law and Crashburn, but he is most recognizable for his role as Wayne in Australian comedy classic, The Castle. Since the film’s release, he has worked alongside Bob Franklin in Stupid Stupid Man, and The Librarians, which Hope also writes and directs.

Sally Phillips has one of the most diverse and successful international acting careers of the Boytown cast, with acting credits prior to the film including Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget Jones’s Diary – The Edge of Reason, Notting Hill, Mean Machine, Birthday Girl and Gladiatress. She also undertook a number of small, one-episode parts on various television programs, mostly in Britain. Since Boytown, Phillips has returned to television acting, appearing in a number of episodes of The Amazing Mrs Pritchard and Jam & Jerusalem.

Lachy Hulme had, like many of the actors of Boytown, been seen in a variety of Australian television programs prior to the film, including Blue Heelers, Stingers and White Collar Blue, as well as acting in a couple of local movies – Let’s Get Skase, Macbeth and The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. The biggest project that he had acted in prior to Boytown was The Matrix Revolutions, playing the character of Sparks in the final installment of the trilogy. Hulme has not undertaken any acting, writing or directing works since Boytown’s release.

Lois Ramsey had a lengthy career spanning both film and television prior to her involvement in Boytown. Her television credits include Prisoner, A Country Practice and The Box, as well as small parts on The Young Doctors, E Street, Water Rats, Blue Heelers, Home and Away, Always Greener and All Saints. Her film credits include My Husband My Killer, Road to Nhill, Tulip and River Street. She has not taken any further acting roles since Boytown.

Sarah Walker’s acting career previous to Boytown was purely based in television, with small parts on Noah & Saskia, and Stiff, as well as an ongoing role playing Pancha on the children’s sci-fi program Silversun. Since Boytown’s release, she has not undertaken any further acting roles.

(For prior and subsequent works of the crew, please see section one)

Australian Film – Context & Genre

Despite the failure of Boytown to elicit many laughs or high praise, from both reviewers and audiences in general, this does not mean that it does not qualify as a comedy. “…in a popular film, particularly if it is a comedy, the story usually counts for very little,” state Mayer and Beattie, “it is a platform for moments, performances, set pieces and the creation of affect.”6 Boytown can be classified specifically as a satirical comedy film – it takes a well known element of the entertainment industry, in this case the boy band phenomenon, and deliberately makes fun of every element of it.7 Moran and Vieth go on to explain that “such comedy is founded on caricature, comic exaggeration, satire and mockery, and depends in part on audiences’ familiarity with the history or genre being held up to ridicule.”8 A prime example of this parody in Boytown is the “I Cry” video clip, which features the band members mimicking the common expressions, movements and actions featured in boy band music videos, relying on the audience recognising these elements, and expecting that they will be able to identify the joke. The specific Australianness of this film is more difficult to identify than might be expected, considering the large amount of well-known Australian comedic talent involved. Aside from their obviously Australian accents, small references to horse and greyhound racing, and the recognisable city-suburbs of the eastern states, Boytown is forced to adopt heavy overtones of Americanism, as much of the boy band culture originates and is commonly associated with the US. As I have suggested, this is perhaps one of the problems that the film encounters in its attempts to engage an Australian audience – unlike Crackerjack or The Castle, which are funny because of their Australianness, there is much in Boytown that is identifiably Australian, which may be responsible for the alienation of audiences. Despite that Boytown does not measure up to Australian comedy predecessors such as The Castle and Crackerjack, in laughs or memorability; it none the less fits best into the category of comedy.

References

  1. Garry Gillard, 'Quirkiness in Australian Cinema', Australian Screen Education, no. 29, 2002: 30-35 - http://garrygillard.net/231/quirkiness.html
  2. At the Movies - http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1756113.htm
  3. Urban Cinefile - http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=12360&s=Reviews
  4. The Age - http://talk.livedaily.com/showthread.php?t=551674
  5. Web Wombat - http://www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/boytown-int.htm
  6. Geoff Mayer & Keith Beattie, 2007, The Cinema of Australia and New Zealand, Wallflower Press: London. Pg 32. (Google Books - http://books.google.com.au/books?id=1cbhBqzye1MC)
  7. Albert Moran & Errol Vieth, 2006, Film in Australia: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press: Melbourne. Pg 59. (Google Books - http://books.google.com.au/books?id=wblleokSTSkC)
  8. ibid.