Oz Film Festival: The BBQ Review
Darren “Dazza” Cook (Shane Jacobson) is descended, he believes, from Captain James, the first European to reach Australia. And what could be more Australian than a barbecue? Dazza sells them for a living and outside his job lives for his barbecue. Wife Diane (Julia Zemiro), son Jayden (Frederik Simpson) and daughter Montana (Lara Robinson) look on askance.
In fact, Montana has taken a vow of silence and has become vegan. Then, some undercooked prawns at Dazza's Saturday feast put much of the neighbourhood into hospital and make him, according to the local news, “Meathead of the Week”. To make amends, he's entered into an international barbecue competition, for which he receives training from a fearsome chef known only as The Butcher (Magda Szubanski).
Shane Jacobson plays another Aussie battler writ large, along similar lines to his title role in his breakthrough film Kenny back in 2006, though with barbecues instead of portaloos. Although he's made a lot of films since then, including costarring with Paul Hogan in Charlie & Boots, and supporting roles elsewhere, it's fair to say that his appeal hasn't really translated to the old country, and The BBQ isn't likely to change that. Clumsily structured (the work of five credited screenwriters), Stephen Amis's film isn't the most visually graceful out there, but there are some laughs to be had, with Magda Szubanski, in full-on Scottish-accented mode, providing some of them.
Julia Zemiro (a television host as well as an actress/comedian in Australia, best known in the UK for appearances on QI) has a thankless role as Dazza's less than understanding and frankly rather neglected wife. Manu Feildel doesn't have a lot to do as Dazza's rival in the competition, arrogant French chef André Mont Blanc. As The Butcher's snooty assistant Carver, Nicholas Hammond steals some of the scenes he was in.
The BBQ would like to be another The Castle. In fact, it nods to that film by mentioning the Kerrigan family who live down the road. That's a risky comparison to make as this film falls a long way short, lacking the charm and warmth of that film which many Australians can quote almost by heart.
I somehow doubt that The BBQ will have the same afterlife, though watching with an audience might provide some more laughs, but ultimately it's medium rather than well done. For carnivores there's enough food porn on display to make you want to go along to your local steakhouse afterwards.
The BBQ was shown at the Oz Film Festival. Further UK distribution is to be confirmed.