Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Review: Pork Pie remake running on fumes

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Can Pork Pie live up to the original?

Any hope that the remake of Goodbye Pork Pie could recapture the ol' yellow magic of the original evaporates fairly early on.

Yes, there are two blokes in a stolen Mini headed to Invercargill, just as they did in Geoff Murphy's 1981 runaway hit.

But it's soon apparent in this retread directed and written by Murphy's son Matt, that these blokes, unlike their oddball predecessors, are kitset movie characters.

They have character arcs, back stories, hidden depths, lives they are running away from, an odd-couple relationship to establish. That kind of thing.

That sure is a lot of baggage to get into one small car.

And frankly, spending time in the flash 21st-century Mini - rather than the glorified go-kart of old - with James Rolleston's taciturn boy-racer Luke and Dean O'Gorman's verbose neurotic writer Jon, isn't as much fun as the movie thinks it is.

The standards for being mad enough to join the Blondini Gang have clearly slipped.
In the original, those two silly bastards did it for a lark and for love.

They were mismatched but soon mates. The goofy energy in the partnership of Kelly Johnson and Tony Barry powered the movie as much as the car-chase shenanigans.
Here, though, Rolleston does most of the driving; O'Gorman does most of the acting. But as a pair they're just not that engaging, as they whizz down country with occasional extra-vehicular adventures.

Along the way, they acquire backseat passenger Keira (Aussie actress Ashleigh Cummings).

She, too, has a lot going on, quitting her drive-through burger joint job to join the pair, drag them into an animal rights protest, have a fling with Luke, and then act as the fugitives' social media manager (#BlondiniGang).

Keira is certainly a more active character than the incidental Shirl of the original.
But she also steers the movie towards various judder bars of contrivance upon which this Pork Pie bottoms out.

Indeed, there were plenty of those in the original. But that lighter, brighter, vehicle tended to use them as jump ramps and its infectious momentum happily took you with them.

This does reach some enjoyably deja vu moments. Most memorably the Wellington car chase and escape via rail ferry.

But the original also felt like a tiki-tour of New Zealand's underbelly, whether it was encountering Bruno Lawrence's Wellington drug dealer or John Bach's crazy Dunedin dude.

James Rolleston and Dean O'Gorman go all the way to Invercargill in a scene from Pork Pie.
James Rolleston and Dean O'Gorman go all the way to Invercargill in a scene from Pork Pie.

Apart from one uneasy meeting with an unhinged heavily armed Southlander, this largely sticks to the middle of the road, via a couple of scenic detours.

Back in 1981, this writer saw GPP on its opening weekend and has loved it ever since. So, feel free to ignore much of the above as back-in-my-day grumblings (#NotMyPorkPie).

But despite 36 intervening years, this Pork Pie feels safer, slower and cleaner than its prototype. Geoff Murphy's film might have not had any higher intentions than being rollicking entertainment but it still captured the spirit of its times.

This one is sporadically entertaining but a largely spiritless imitation.

By the way, what do you call that shade of yellow? Lemon?

Pork Pie

Cast: Dean O'Gorman, James Rolleston, Ashleigh Cummings Director: Matt Murphy
Rating: M (violence, offensive language, drug use, sexual references)
Running time: 105 mins
Verdict: Higher performance car, lower performance remake

- NZ Herald

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