Gary Of the Pacific: Film Review
Cast: Josh Thomson, Megan Stevenson, Matt Whelan, Dave Fane, Taofi Mose-Tuiloma
Director: Jarrod Holt, Ryan Hutchings
Gary Of the Pacific is rarely better than its opening audacious moments, where a stranded dolphin, a Pacific island beach and a subversive gag make for a shocking - albeit blackly comedic and bravura - opening.
However, the new comedy from the authors of the phenomenally popular 7 Days and the cult audience-led TV comedy Hounds, the downlow project, somehow manages to squander a large portion of the promise it proffered up for the rest of its duration.
Timaru's greatest export, Josh Thompson, plays the titular Gary, a veritable schlubby loser of a guy, who, in his younger years, was dispatched from his Pacific island by his family to go to university overseas in New Zealand and bring accolades and honour to those who'd patronized him.
With the weight of belief on his shoulders from his family and the island as a whole, Gary somehow manages to dodge expectations and ends up taking a series of dead-end jobs that propel him to no glory whatsoever.
Ending up as the chief seller at an estate agent's where the employees number both himself and his clearly-not-right-for-him girlfriend Chloe (Megan Stevenson whose American shrill simply wants a Princess Di or Monica from Friends style wedding), Gary's delusions of grandeur stretch as far as believing he will take the top award at a real estate do, held at a local curry house.
With a marriage proposal gone awry, and with debt threatening to drown him, Gary is called back to his homeland in the Pacific after the news his father and the island's chief (Laughing Samoan star Dave Fane) is dying. Reluctantly, Gary returns home, the prodigal son with promise unfulfilled, but finds that his father's bestowed the honour of chief upon him on his death.
Can Gary do what's necessary to save his sinking homeland, his failing relationship and himself?
With a weak script and not enough gags to fill the relatively short run time, Gary Of The Pacific struggles by, garnering only enough good-will, in parts, because of its lead, Josh Thomson.
Whether it's baring his saggy backside within moments or gamely sorting his junk into the most uncomfortable pair of Spanx you've ever seen, Thomson's low-key wit and deadpan and desperate delivery helps keep large swathes of Gary of the Pacific afloat, but it's slim pickings, thanks to a weakly written script, populated largely by characters who are relatively unlikeable and who remain so from start to finish.
Much like Sione's Wedding and its wretched sequel, a lot's centred on both the family angle within the Pacific community, but simply put, Gary of the Pacific does little to build on this premise.
Chief offender is Dave Fane's father figure who appears ghost-like to Gary after his demise. But rather than offering sage advice, or helping Gary along the way on his journey, Fane's father exists to simply guffaw, laugh and cackle at his charge, a move that soon becomes irritating.
Go Girls star Matt Whelan is a weak fiancee, and foil to the relatively human Lani (first timer Taofi Mose-Tuiloma). Gary's wearied sister who's ended up at home, tending to an ill father and who's become a surrogate to the sinking isle's community.
Hers is perhaps the role that feels that most under-written though, with tensions between Gary and herself manifesting purely as sibling squabbles. There was a strong vein of comedy and emotional resonance to be mined here, but what's actually happened is the writers have gone for the lowest level and stayed there, not realising that the sibling rivalry would have yielded its best results.
Much like Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa's Three Wise Cousins achieved massively last year, the film's got the potential to resonate with its audience but it does nothing to boost its chances in the ways the prestige of those involved would hint at.
Despite Thomson's amiability and inherent desire to debase himself as the butt of the jokes wherever possible, all in all, Gary Of The Pacific is woefully inadequate; just relying on lazyish characters, poor writing and lacklustre attempts at laughs aren't nearly enough to get it through to the finish line.
It's a downright shame, to be frank, that this script wasn't even tightened up before the cameras began rolling, as banking on a few sight gags, odd one-liners here and there and under-playing the familial elements just isn't enough to do anyone in this the justice they and their talents clearly deserve.