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Bran Nue Day movie poster

Bran Nue Dae: Movie Review

Comedy, Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Rachel Perkins
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Rocky McKenzie, Jessica Mauboy, Ernie Dingo, Deborah Mailman, Magda Szubanski
Released by: Robyn Kershaw Productions

In Short: This delightfully funny musical import from Australia juxtaposes a comic tone with some serious issues, making it much more than just another singalong.

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And Sing Your Troubles Away

There’s a good reason that the Australian musical comedy “Bran Nue Dae” has been a huge hit Down Under. It’s terrific.

And it doesn’t hurt that the film, helmed by the half-Aborigine Rachel Perkins, explores some of the injustices done to that continent’s indigenous people as well, making the viewer think a bit, along with all the laughter and fun. It’s a heady blend of satire, camp and catchy tunes, all based on a stage play of the same name that took Oz by storm more than twenty years ago. The title, a phonetic spelling of “Brand New Day,” is also one of the songs that threads through the story of Willie (Rocky McKenzie), a teenage Aborigine living in Broome (in the dry Northwest of Australia) who is sent south to Perth to a Catholic boarding school for his education.

Rocky McKenzie, Geoffrey Rush,Jessica Mauboy and cast of Bran Nue Day Ernie Dingo and Missy Higgins in Bran Nue Dae

He’s been willing (up until the film begins) to go along with all the religious training, even toying with the idea of becoming a priest, but now, as the summer of 1969 wanes, he’s feeling the pull of love for a pretty local girl named Rosie (Jessica Mauboy). She’s got a big voice and, in a troubling development for Willie, is being drawn into a relationship with a local rockabilly singer, especially when he recruits her for his band. As Willie heads back to school, he cannot get Rosie or his rival out of his mind, and he quickly runs away, beginning a long and wacky road trip back home to his girl.

Along the way, Willie meets up with hippies, hoboes, sex-starved honeys and even a few surly cops; meanwhile, he’s being chased by the headmaster, a German priest played with gusto by Geoffrey Rush. It’s quite the journey toward adulthood, filled with comical moments, emotional reunions and some truly catchy tunes.

With its oversaturated look, gorgeous landscapes and slightly cartoonish feel, “Bran Nue Dae” is tons of fun to watch, and will leave you smiling and humming the main tune, “Nothing I Would Rather Be (Than to Be an Aborigine)” long after the show is over.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

(Updated 09/13/10 AR)

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