Dean O’Gorman, James Rolleston, Ashleigh Cummings
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Pork Pie is less ‘landmark Kiwi film’ and more ‘amiable Sunday arvo matinee’.
Three strangers find themselves on a ramshackle road trip along the length of New Zealand in this good-natured but slight Kiwi comedy.
After his girlfriend dumps him for his incessant no-hopery, struggling novelist Jon (Dean O’Gorman) resolves to drive down to Invercargill (the southernmost city in New Zealand, geography fans) to try and win her back. Sadly his car is about as reliable as, well, he is, but he soon hooks up with young car thief Luke (James Rolleston), who is tooling around in a freshly-nicked, bright yellow MINI Cooper S. Rebellious fast food cashier Kiera (Ashleigh Cummings) completes the “Blondini Gang”, as they’re soon to be known, and the three head south together. However, Luke has criminals on his tail, the trio manage to run foul of the law, and soon they’re not so much ambling as scrambling to stay ahead of the bad guys, all the while managing to become some kind of cross between folk heroes and viral sensations in the eyes of the public.
Pork Pie is a remake of the 1981 film Goodbye Pork Pie, which occupies a pretty special place in the hearts of New Zealanders – it was their first big homegrown hit and a signifier that the NZ film industry had come of age. This new iteration, directed by Matt Murphy, the son of original director Geoff Murphy, is not going to stake out similar territory for itself. Part of that is simply because the culture has changed, and part of that is its failure to capture the anarchic, freewheeling spirit of its source.
That’s to be expected, perhaps; GPP felt like lightning in a bottle, while PP can’t help but feel like an imitation thereof, with a lot of the rough edges and spiky bits sanded down and smoothed off (and that’s sometimes for the best – the original’s sexual politics would not fly today). The original felt like a gamble; the 2017 model feels more like product (compare the MINIs in each for a perfect visual metaphor of that sentiment).
Which is not to say that Pork Pie isn’t fun. Dean O’Gorman makes for an engaging if hapless protagonist (Rolleston is less well served by his largely taciturn character), there are some decent chase sequences and stunts, and the whole thing coasts along on a wave of charisma and general goodwill. Still, Pork Pie is less “landmark Kiwi film” and more “amiable Sunday arvo matinee”.