Swinging Safari, written and directed by Stephan Elliot (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), is a star-studded Australian coming-of-age comedy with plenty of laughs and heart. The film follows a teenage boy as he grows up in the 1970’s in a small Australian coastal town when a giant blue whale gets beached on the shore.
Although the story is a relatively standard and by-the-book coming-of-age tale, it is done in a way that is funny and creative enough for the movie to be enjoyable. Despite the fact that the film doesn’t cover any new thematic ground, the movie’s message about enjoying and cherishing the time you have still rings true in this century.
The story is instead a means to provide the emotional arc and comedic scenario for the film. The beached whale, summer romance, and swinging parents are little more than humorous situations that help the protagonist grow into himself. Much of the humor is light and breezy, often achieving the perfect balance between the innocent and the darker and innuendo-laden.
Perhaps the only real problem with this movie is that there are simply too many players in the game. Since the film focuses on three neighboring families, there are quite a few main characters with which you must keep up. The movie introduces them in a fast-paced and amusing sequence, but after a while, it becomes somewhat difficult to keep up with who is doing what in the story.
Nevertheless, the film manages to have the emotional resonance it desires (for the most part) because those characters which are most important to the protagonist’s arc are well-developed. Granted, it would have been nice to see more from the female characters in the movie (although the patriarchal nature of the families is period-accurate), but the male characters do a good enough job of bringing the humor and the emotion.
Guy Pearce, Julian McMahon, and Jeremy Sims are the standouts as the patriarchs of their respective families. The chemistry they have together is great and their comedic timing is impeccable. Pearce is especially fun to watch, particularly given the fact that a majority of his recent roles have been more dramatic in nature. It is nice to see him letting loose and having fun.
Additionally, the film is pretty impressive on a technical level. The cinematography and production design are done in a way that is meant to both maximize comedic timing and transport you back into the seventies. For the most part, it works. There are a few sequences in which the attempts to be nostalgic do go overboard, but those are few in number.
Swinging Safari isn’t the best movie to come out of the recent coming-of-age revival, but it is a rather enjoyable one. If you’re looking for a relatively mindless, funny, and heartwarming hour-and-a-half-long romp, this is one you will want to check out.
Swinging Safari is now in theaters and on VOD.