Movie Review: BRAN NUE DAE

BRAN NUE DAE Dorky and earnest, aboriginal teen Willie (Rocky McKenzie) proves deep down a dissident when he escapes Catholic boarding school in 1969 Perth, extinguishing the fire and brimstone of Father Benedictus (a hammy, German-inflected Geoffrey Rush) through cheeky song: "There's nothing I would rather be/Than to be an Aborigine/And watch you take my precious land away." Hooking up with a rascally drunken hobo and a hippie couple in a VW bus, Willie show-tunes his way home to Broome on a madcap, sunny-day road trip, eventually reconnecting with his evangelical mama and the girl who snubbed him (Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy). It's easy to understand why indigenous filmmaker Rachel Perkins' energetic adaptation of a two-decade-old stage musical has become a homegrown hit in Oz, as it nakedly attempts to be a timeless coming-of-ager about cultural identity, with humor and music used to diffuse social injustices. However, the film is too broad and tacky to engage on a universal level, or at least Stateside: The choreography is sloppy and lifeless; the outmoded blend of vintage rock, country and Broadway styles doesn't click; and the characters are such caricatures that it's no wonder the entire cast is overacting. Oh, but to Lord of the Rings cinematographer Andew Lesnie: Well done, mate. (Opens Fri., Sept. 10 at the Grove, L.A., Fri., Sept. 17 at Monica 4-Plex, Playhouse 7 Pasadena)

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