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PORK PIE is New Zealand’s Latest Can’t Miss Comedy (Fantasia Review)

PORK PIE is New Zealand’s Latest Can’t Miss Comedy (Fantasia Review)

Thanks to quirky titles like Flight of the Conchords, What We Do In the Shadows, Deathgasm, and Hunt For the Wilderpeople, comedy fans have come to look to New Zealand for a distinctive brand of humor that’s breezy yet biting. The Fantasia International Film Festival just debuted the latest can’t-miss laffer from this gorgeous and eccentric island nation with the cheeky road trip comedy Pork Pie.

This rollicking remake of the 1981 hit Goodbye Pork Pie follows an unlikely trio of misfits as they speed through New Zealand’s lush landscapes, quaint towns, and bustling cities in a bumble-bee yellow Mini Cooper. Along the way, they’ll break laws, cut loose, and become folk heroes for their unique brand of rebellion. But the truth of this threesome is far sillier and stranger than that setup might suggest.

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Dean O’Gorman stars as Jon, a down-and-out author whose in-the-works novel is described as a “shit sandwich without the bread,” while his ex-fiancee is fixing to leave him and New Zealand for good. In a desperate bid to get her back, and get his life on track, Jon sets off to make a big romantic gesture. But he gets sidelined–and nearly rundown–when he crosses paths with Maori street racer Luke (James Rolleston), who’s got a sweet but stolen set of wheels, and a heartbreaking backstory. After some male bonding and cop dodging, a pit stop crashes this duo into the fireball of energy and activism that is Keira (Ashleigh Cummings), a fishnet-stockinged twenty-something who flees her fast food gig once her bosses discover she’s been sneaking animal rights pamphlets in with the burgers.

Each of Pork Pie‘s heroes is seeking a bit of freedom. Luke is racing away from his past, and a band of bad influences. Swirling about in a pre-protest Silence of the Lambs rave, Keira refutes the life expected, and warns a lovestruck Luke that she won’t be tied down. Meanwhile, Jon seeks to be free of the demons of his past, by scoring reconciliation with his ex. But as their journey winds through sheep-cluttered streets, costume-stuffed box cars, and a brush with a trigger-happy fan of their antics, they become more than misfits. They become the Blondini Gang — folk heroes who stand for being true to our wild hearts, no matter the cost. And in doing so, they carve a wild and sometimes rough road to epiphany, pain, and ultimately a bit of bittersweet glory.

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As I’d never heard of the original film, Pork Pie took me entirely by surprise with its eccentric tale of lovable screw-ups. The plot twists that pitch the affable anti-heroes into car chases, coffins, and box cars were utterly enthralling. Rather than the over-the-top action of Fast and Furious movies, these action scenes were grounded in reality, with characters absolute drop-jawed at having survived them. And the comedy set pieces sing with a blend of zaniness and irreverence that this critic has come to expect from New Zealand exports. A particular sequence involving a poorly chosen spot for a nap comes to mind, but to explain would be to spoil the fun.

While Pork Pie writer/director Matt Murphy brings a modern wit and fresh whimsy to this remake, his chief achievement might be selecting a pitch-perfect cast. With a boyish charm and a mischievous smile, Rolleston boasts a breezy sex appeal that sparks brightly with Cummings’ vivacious verve and winsome sense of wonder. As the pair play dress up, donning pork pie hats and a pink poofy gown respectively, they fantasize about being like Bonnie and Clyde, winning our hearts and earning our concern. After all, things didn’t turn out so hot for that criminally-inclined duo.

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For his part, O’Gorman, who stole scenes as the dwarf Fíli in the Hobbit trilogy, burns with a bad boy allure, but gamely plays the fool when the moment calls for it. As he blazes down a highway, protruding through the Mini’s sunroof and proclaiming his intentions to get to his love no matter what, it’s a moment both exhilarating and ridiculous. His enthusiasm is contagious, but still cluttered by the ringmaster coat and aviator goggles snatched from an unexpected train detour; he is a ludicrous romantic lead. And we love him for it!

Together this thrilling threesome sells every moment of this rousing adventure, be it poignant, nerve-racking, or absurd. Simply, Pork Pie offers a wondrous road trip comedy full of humor and heart, with a healthy dash of Kiwi sass.

4 out of 5 burritos

4-burritos

Images: StudioCanal

Kristy Puchko is a freelance entertainment reporter and film critic. You can find more of her reviews hereFollow her on Twitter! 

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