Enthusiasm and Australiana: you can’t miss either in this stretched, struggling, stereotypical Aussie comedy
Morgan Griffin and Xavier Samuel in Spin Out.
Enthusiasm and Australiana: you can’t miss either in Spin Out. Marking the directorial debut of Doug Anthony All-Stars comedian and Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush host Tim Ferguson, the outback-set romantic comedy matches its energy with its ocker nature. Alas, while the film’s embrace of its rural setting might be aimed at endearing regional audiences keen on ute musters and bachelor and spinsters balls – evoking recognition and fondness in close-knit country areas similar to the one it depicts isn’t the same as crafting an effort with genuine wide appeal.
That Ferguson shares helming duties with Take Away and You and Your Stupid Mate filmmaker Marc Gracie provides an indication of the loose tone and larrikin-oriented type of gags on offer; think exploding portaloos, a dog called Knob, drinking competitions, nicknames aplenty and city slickers finding it a little difficult to adjust to a night of fair dinkum bush partying. Affection clearly lingers in Ferguson’s script, as co-written with associate producer Edwina Exton, but so does the struggling broadness and stretched formula behind it.
It’s with the sight of mud flicking from tires and the sound of engines revving that Spin Out introduces its main players, including laidback jackaroo Billy (Xavier Samuel, The Death and Life of Otto Bloom) and ambitious jillaroo Lucy (Morgan Griffin, San Andreas), childhood friends who also double as a driving team. Lovesick Sparrow (Travis Jeffery, Unbroken) is often found standing in the back of one of their utes – when he’s not pining for seemingly disinterested goth Mary (Melissa Bergland, TV’s Winners & Losers), that is. After a near miss in the arena, Lucy announces that she’s moving to Sydney, a decision Billy realises he's far from thrilled about. A planned evening of shenanigans at the yearly B&S becomes his chance to show his feelings and convince her to stay, while Sparrow endeavours to win over his lady of choice as well.
With Billy and Lucy’s potential romance complicated by snappily dressed siblings Nic (Lincoln Lewis, Gallipoli) and Sasha (Christie Whelan, The Divorce) with their own amorous intentions, and other relationship-focused subplots charting the expected breakups and revelations, Spin Out delivers clichés and tropes rather than surprises. Focusing squarely on the younger generation of outback dwellers, Ferguson and Gracie flit busily between characters and jokes over the course of one alcohol-soaked evening; however the thinly drawn nature of both always remains obvious, despite the feature's glowing imagery and pop-heavy soundtrack.
That contrast – of patchiness and polish – also extends to eager performances that happily paint by the numbers. Samuel and Griffin generate enough chemistry to sell their will-they, won't-they dynamic, but from their likeable leading efforts through to stereotypes saddled upon numerous bit-players, depth remains noticeably absent. Ultimately, with most of the material missing the mark despite admirable pro-country intentions, Spin Out becomes an exercise in meaning well rather than doing well. The corresponding knockabout vibe might be fitting, but it results in a film that's more likely to inspire cringing than heart-warming, freewheeling laughs with many viewers.
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
Directors: Tim Ferguson and Marc Gracie
Australia, 2016, 91 mins
Release date: September 15