A Heartbeat Away (PG) 2 stars
Sebastian Gregory, Isabel Lucas, Colin Friels, Roy Billing
DIRECTOR: GALE EDWARDS
You’ll like this if you liked Brassed Off, Charlie and Boots, Bootmen, BoyTown, Billy Elliott
If reports that A Heartbeat Away cost almost $7 million to make are correct, investors such as Screen Australia will be beating down the door of first-time writer Julie Kincade and director Gale Edwards.
Without any major stars or fancy special effects to justify such a budget, this derivative and dismally quirky musical-drama will be lucky to make 10 per cent of that money back.
Not that A Heartbeat Away is terrible. It's watchable in a switch-off, tune-out, lightest-of-light- entertainment ways.
But when you spend an unjustified amount of money making an Australian version of Brassed Off, something in the scripting and funding process is dreadfully wrong.
How it made the cinema when better Australian films such as the WA-made thriller Blame and the amusing family drama The Wedding Party struggle for a release is another process that's gone dreadfully wrong. But here it is.
In the tiny coastal community of Montague (shot in Moreton Bay), the proud old marching band is under threat from a malicious mayor (Colin Friels). He wants to replace the band's clubhouse/watering hole with a giant lobster. The band's fate seems sealed when its crusty leader (William Zappa) is hit by a bus just weeks before the only competition that can save it. Enter his wannabe rock-star son Kevin (Sebastian Gregory), who secretly takes over as bandleader and switches its tired repertoire to more modern rock and pop songs.
That plot is so similar to Brassed Off it borders on plagiarism.
That UK film was based on the rousing true story of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band and effectively showed how dirt-poor workers escaped the coalmines through music.
A Heartbeat Away, by comparison, barely gets the heart pumping. Kincade's script is laden with so much shudder-inducing Aussie quirk - from daggy ocker humour to ute-driving old-timers drinking middies at the bar - that it feels more like a movie from the 1970s.
It's only when Kevin strikes up a romance with music-store sexpot Mandy (Isabel Lucas) that the film shows signs of life, though Lucas' character has almost nothing to do other than dance to the music and look good.
A Heartbeat Away could be a rousing, entertaining inter- generation tale of a father and son uniting through the power of music. But it's buried in cliches, caricatures, quirks and plot holes. It all culminates in the bizarre competition which jars with the rest of the film's old-school charm, where Kevin leads the band playing electric guitar. On top of a crane. In the rain. To fireworks.
Smells like stale cheese to me.