Saturday 29 November 2014

Fat Pizza Vs. Housos (2014) - Movie Review

Whether it was watching TV standards like The Late Show and Kath & Kim, seeing stand-up gigs by the likes of Adam Hills and Carl Barron, or just by living in this country myself, I can’t think of a single time in my life when I wasn’t being influenced by Australian comedy. To quote the comedian Vince Sorrenti: “We don’t need to protect the Australian way of life; the Australian way of life is our fucking protection. It’s the most benign existence on Earth.” We are easily the most laidback people on the planet and it shows in our collective comedic styling, given how quick we are to take the piss out of ourselves and everyone else within earshot. To carry on that tradition, we have today’s film.

The plot: Bobo (John Boxer) has just been released from a 15-year stint in jail, only to return and find that his pizza shop has been shut down. Along with his mother (Maria Vanuti), they both buy a new pizza place in the town of Sunnyvale.

If that sounds abrupt, that’s only because that’s as much coherency as I can muster for what loosely counts as a plot here. Seriously, this film is so scattershot that I am barely able to put it in words. Not that it’s hard to understand, but that it is very difficult to articulate what exactly happens in the 90 or so minutes of run time; it probably doesn’t help that this is my first time experiencing anything involving either Fat Pizza or Housos.

For my international readers, going through the cast list for a movie like this would just be ringing on deaf ears, but needless to say we’re dealing with some real unsung comedians here: Tahir, Garry Who, Nick “The Wog Boy” Giannopoulos as well as the previously mentioned Vince Sorrenti.  We also get some Aussie radio talent like Jonesy as the political punching bag Premier Campbell Abbott as well as Kyle Sandilands… okay, maybe ‘talent’ isn’t the best word to use to describe him but it was least fun seeing him get beaten up with a thong. For the record, that's another word for flip-flip; this wasn't some weird thing involving underwear slingshots... although that would have been hilarious to see.

Okay, might as well tackle the flannelette-wearing elephant in the room: The comedy. This takes the South Park road of satirical comedy: Bury whatever commentary you want to make under layers upon layers of political incorrectness. This movie pretty much tackles every Aussie stereotype in the book (Not Crocodile Dundee stereotypes, I mean the ones that actually exist): Coppers, polies, wogs, lebs, bogans, bikies, boat people; you name it, director/writer/actor Paul Fenech has it vivisected and on display somewhere on screen. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m unfamiliar with Fenech’s works, but if this is anything to go by then I definitely want to see more. The dialogue is thicker than concrete with Aussie slanguage, the physical comedy mostly focuses on smacking people in the face, and the plot itself is all kinds of bizarre… but that’s not to say that it’s stupid.

The most obvious satire here would be on current Prime Minister Tony Abbott through the Premier, a man who focuses more on the one guy who embarrassed him in front of the cameras instead of the ensuing gang war going on in Sunnyvale. Given Tony “Let’s see how badly I can make my own country look to everyone else at G20” Abbott’s track record of late, even this might be a bit lenient. We also get some running commentary on the treatment of the unemployed in Australia, the racial profiling at work in various departments of government and law enforcement, as well as a sly jab at people’s overuse of mobile phones, and this kind of batshit story honestly feels like the best way to deliver this kind of satire.

The story here is very episodic, in that very little of what happens seems to correlate with one another: We have a bikie gang, a guy dealing drugs out of his pizza deliveries, an Italian mother influencing the government through creating Centerlink schemes to further her son’s business, and the thongarang, the most effective non-lethal weapon in history. It’s all over the place but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t consistently make me laugh. The pacing is just right so that the small jokes rush by and pave the way for more to come by and smack you in the face. Really, the only problem with the comedy here is how dated some of it feels: References to Schapelle Corby (who I swear is actually in the film, but I couldn’t find confirmation on that), 9/11; the plot intentionally takes a 15 year gap between Bobo’s arrest and his release, supposedly so they can make jokes about how some characters don’t know how to tweet or use Facebook, but it does stick out a fair way whenever it happens.

The soundtrack, put simply, is awesome. Maybe it’s my weakness for Aussie hip-hop shining through, but the handful of tracks by rap group Funkoars sound great here, as well as some nice pub rock tunes by local acts like Heaven The Axe. Some of the lyrics to the songs are kind of goofy, given how a lot of them talk about pizzas, but the beats underneath them are serious bangers. Even when we’re dealing with returning Pizza character Sleek the Elite and his rhyming, there’s just something organic about it that fits with the style of the film overall; he's like an Aussie Biz Markie.

All in all, I had a blast with this movie. I’ll admit that I went into this not expecting to like it at all, but leaving it I was completely confused as to why I would ever think that in the first place. For my fellow Aussies, no question: See this movie and help support Australian filmmaking. For my international readers, if you’re capable of cutting through both the accents and the Aussie slang in the dialogue, you might just find something fun in this.

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