William Lodder, Anastasia Bampos, Richard Roxburgh, Darius Amarfio Jefferson, Frances O’Connor, Dan Wyllie, Cooper Van Grootel
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
Arguments against our cinema being government supported should be immediately put to bed if you consider the impact of family films such as Go! In a marketplace dominated by corporate Hollywood franchises and US-based online platforms, it’s essential for our cultural identity that our children see themselves reflected on the screen. What’s more, it is these films that outperform at the box office – see Ride Like a Girl, Paper Planes, Red Dog, Babe, going all the way back to 1976’s Storm Boy.
Go!, originally titled ‘Go-Karts’, is from the writer of Paper Planes, Steve Worland, who announced himself back in 2000 with Bootmen and a Hollywood deal, before finding his groove with 2014’s Paper Planes and a sideline in thriller novels. His fiction is formulaic, but it’s also recognisable and entertaining. Here, he takes the against-all-odds family sports movie trope Mighty Ducks, Bad News Bears, etc) and applies it to small town Australia.
The story sees good natured teenager Jack (Lodder) and his single mum Christie (O’Connor) turning up in a small coastal town (shot in scenic Busselton in WA) to start afresh after the death of Jack’s dad. Jack soon turns up at a go-karting track, where he meets the awkward Colin (Darius Amarfio Jefferson), the world-weary track owner Patrick (Richard Roxburgh), arrogant golden boy Dean (Cooper Van Grootel) and his under-appreciated sister Mandy (Anastasia Bampos). Before you can say Mr Miyagi, Jack is cleaning the track with promises of time behind the wheel and training from ex pro with a dark past, Patrick.
On directing duties is Owen Trevor, who has taken a roundabout route to his first local feature. After making short films and moving into the commercial world, he directed multiple episodes of the original Top Gear TV phenomenon, and now returns home with Go!, adept at making crowd-pleasing entertainment. Trevor’s work here is highly commendable, all about keeping things simple and serving the material without bringing attention to himself or any of the potential visual trickery that could have been the downfall of a lesser filmmaker.
Key to Go!’s success is the casting, with charismatic first timers William Lodder and Anastasia Bampos able to carry the story’s emotional stakes. Supported by the experienced players, including Dan Wyllie’s comedic cop and Damian de Montemas’s cashed-up adversary, who all give the potentially cliched story and characters their full investment and surround the young cast with believable, three dimensional human beings.
It may not have the budget or big stars of its Hollywood counterparts, but Go! has something that Dolittle, etc, could never achieve, believable and admirable Australian characteristics that local audiences will be able to identify with, be proud of, and truly worth rooting for. Warning: you’ll be seeking out the closest go-karting track for you and/or your family straight after the movie.