An Australian musical with singing Aborigines, hippies and priests? What could go wrong? While the film clearly falls into the category of “something you don’t see every day”, its originality can’t overcome its amateurish production and poorly conceived plot. Geoffrey Rush is the only recognizable acting talent involved, and while it’s admirable that he’s supporting his native films, even his contribution as a schoolmaster priest ends up being more of an embarrassment than a high point in his lengthy career. Regrettably, the best aspect is a couple of charming songs that may linger long after the rest of this lackluster experience fades from memory.
Willie is a shy, pudgy Aborigine lad carrying a torch for the lovely Rosie in their close-knit community in Broome. It’s 1969 and they’ve been integrated into mainstream Western culture (do they call it Western down under?), with Rosie in particular longing for the temptations of pop music and fashion. Willie fights his own temptations, trying to stay faithful to the religious customs instilled in him in Catholic school in faraway Perth, ultimately returning there before making any mistakes with Rosie. Once back in school, he’s rather unfairly punished by the schoolmaster (Rush) for a youthful indiscretion and decides to make a break for home, embarking on a prolonged road trip that finds him sharing the ride with an old homeless grifter and a couple of European hippies in their VW van. That’s right about the time the film wears out its welcome and becomes a tedious and inconsequential trek across the outback.
When Willie finally makes it back to Broome and makes his play for Rosie while also facing the wrath of the schoolmaster, we’re sideswiped by unnecessary revelations of extremely far-fetched family ties involving the road trip comrades that completely deflate and detract from the importance of the central relationship. This being a musical, they attempt to get away with the ridiculous conclusion by ending in song and dance, but after enduring the pointless road trip no measure of frivolity can restore the early promise of the film’s sweet, earnest opening scenes.
Brand New Day is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download. The Blu-ray image quality is surprisingly grainy and the audio channel separation appears to be entirely in the front. Additionally, the Blu-ray offers a grand total of zero bonus features, resulting in no reason to choose the format over DVD.
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