The new Australian film The BBQ is a likeable, cheery movie, but it does have some shortcomings.
It’s trying to be The Castle for the 21st century, but doesn’t match the brilliance of that iconic Australian film.
Our hero Dazza (Shane Jacobson) has a passion for barbecuing, which he does relentlessly every weekend for his enthusiastic multicultural neighbourhood and the in-laws—though the charm of it is wearing thin with Dazza’s patient wife Diane (Julia Zemiro).
Unfortunately, one weekend he doesn’t realise the fridge in the shed keeping the prawns cool was accidentally disconnected for a while, and the end result is massive and dramatic food poisoning, earning him the title in the media of ‘Meathead of the Week’.
With the old adage, “If you can’t be famous, be notorious” in mind, his employers (Barbecues Galore, of course) decide to use his new profile in a national barbecue chef competition, pitting our crestfallen hero against the best in the country, including the insufferable Andre Mont Blanc—My Kitchen Rules’ Manu Feildel in his first role on the big screen.
But Dazza needs help to become the top BBQ chef in the country, so he is sent to learn the tricks of the trade from The Butcher (Magda Szubanski), an over- the-top character with a Scottish accent and a dark gastronomic secret.
With the chase for barbecue glory not being a sufficient plot line for the writers, there is a side gag going on. Dazza Cook proudly tells all and sundry that he is descended from Captain James Cook and that his barbecue is made out of a ship’s wooden barrel bequeathed to him by that famous relative.
So you have two parallel stories going on, with Dazza’s son (Frederik Simpson) taking on the quest of finding out if they really are descended from Captain Cook, aided by two schoolmates. Truth does win out at the end, but you will have to see the film to see what happens.
It is fun following the journey Dazza takes from anti-hero despised by his father-in-law, a politician who does a good line in cutting remarks (John Stanton), to eventual triumph, but it’s all just a bit too over the top, though the reference to “the Kerrigans who live down the road” is a blatant yet amusing nod to The Castle.
Szubanski’s Butcher is a little too exaggerated as a character, but she puts in her usual fine performance, and it’s impossible not to like and cheer for Jacobson’s everyman Dazza.
The problem is not with the fine performances, but with the script. Six writers are credited for the screenplay, and that probably accounts for the end result. Too many cooks in this particular barbecue kitchen?
Don’t see it on an empty stomach, as the steaks look too appetising, and it’s not a film for dedicated vegetarians, but The BBQ will give you a few chuckles. It’s a heart-warming tale of the underdog who triumphs, and don’t we all love that?
Highlight: Great performance from Shane Jacobson
Red flags: Occasional coarse language