Chris Philpott 's Opinion

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

Chris Philpott: It's too soon for a Rugby World Cup movie

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It's 20 years too soon to dramatise the 2011 Rugby World Cup, writes Chris Philpott.
David De Lautour will play Stephen Donald in an upcoming movie about the Rugby World Cup 2011.
David De Lautour will play Stephen Donald in an upcoming movie about the Rugby World Cup 2011.

I like the look of that cast announcement for The Kick, the upcoming drama based on the life of World Cup winning All Blacks star Stephen Donald. David De Lautour is a fine actor to play the lead, and there are some good names - Tim Foley, Geoff Dolan, Joe Naufahu - among the rest of the cast.

But isn't it a bit soon for a retelling of the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, considering it took place less than three years ago, and almost every person in the country knows how it went down?

I get why producers think it would work: Kiwis love rugby and we love underdogs (Donald in this case, not the All Blacks), so it should be a slam dunk. I just think it's 20 years too soon to dramatise it.

The art of the dramatic re-enactment is a tricky one to master. You have to choose the right story. Your subject can't be too recent, which is why war films work so well.

If your story is more recent, you have to make sure you tell a side of it that people aren't overly familiar with. Siege, the brilliant drama starring Mark Mitchinson as Jan Molenaar, the gunman in a vicious Napier shooting, is a good example.

You have to make sure that not everybody knows the story before you go to air. Tangiwai: A Love Story was a flawed film, but it worked in part, despite public familiarity with those tragic events, because very few viewers were aware of the connection between the disaster and international cricketer Bob Blair.

The Kick promises to explore the life of Stephen Donald - as a Chiefs fan, one of the most frustrating careers of any professional rugby player, at least in recent memory - in the lead up to a 2011 Rugby World Cup final that will surely be the centerpiece of the entire film.

The trouble is that the story is far too recent and far too familiar to make for an engaging dramatic production.

I mean, it's been less than three years since the key events of The Kick took place. I'm sure we can all remember where we were: I was pacing around the dining room of my friends James' house when Donald stepped on to the field during the final, convinced - after years of failed Chiefs seasons and awful Donald performances at the international level - that he was going to screw up the entire game for us and hand the cup to France.

The story has also entered into rugby legend. Any fan who was following the All Blacks in 2011 has heard the tale about how Donald was white-baiting when he got the call from Graham Henry to join the team after a spate of injuries - and how he gave Henry some of his catch as thanks for bringing him back.

We all know the story, and we all remember the kick. So where is the dramatic gravitas that will drive the film? What would be the point of watching a film depicting such a renowned chapter of New Zealand sporting lore?

I don't need to watch a bunch of guys, no matter how talented they might be, act out the 2011 Rugby World Cup final. I was there, pacing around a dining room. I remember it vividly. And, even if I didn't, I could probably head to The Warehouse and pick up a commemorative DVD for under $10.

Hey, the team at Great Southern Films, the production company behind The Kick, could have something really special on their hands here. They might be able to surprise me and turn The Kick, and Stephen Donald, into a magnificent television event.

It's unlikely, though. I saw it all the first time round.

Chris Philpott

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

In a strange way, Chris Philpott has grown up with television: his first big addiction was The X Files, which he watched as a teenager, enthralled by what was possible with the form. Chris’ love of TV grew over the years, parallel to the popularity and quality of serial dramas like The Sopranos, Lost, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. He began writing about TV professionally in 2010, before joining the NZ Herald in late 2013, and considers writing about TV more than a passing interest or hobby: he genuinely loves sharing new series and discussing the big shows with readers. Chris is based in Whangarei, and lives with his wife and daughter. When he isn’t watching television … just kidding, he’s always watching television.

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