Nige (Bret McKenzie) and best mate Deano (Hamish Blake) are recently estranged. Each struggle with their imploding long-term friendship which has been put under further pressure by an unfortunate incident involving a hot meat pie, a ginger cat and the untimely death of a Scandinavian soccer star.
Despite their savvy track record of producing comedy gold in their individual careers, four considerable talents serve up a D.O.A. effort with Two Little Boys. Crafted from a cult novel as a star vehicle for two popular comic actors – Bret McKenzie and Hamish Blake – this New Zealand oddity wants to be a kind-of Dumb and Dumber-meets-Fargo but spins off on some self-indulgently strange tangents that become decreasingly funny and incredibly tiresome.
Nobody seems to be on the same page
The 'Little’ in the title refers to the minds and not the ages of our protagonists, of course. Via an opening credits montage, we’re introduced to like-minded pre-teens Nige and Deano. Even by the puerile standards usually associated with 11-year-old males, Nige and Deano are smutty imbeciles. The duo stay friends, growing into McKenzie (Nige) and Blake (Deano), while still remaining utterly fixated on sleaze, booze and, rather unhealthily, each other. Soon, though, enough’s enough for Nige, and he moves out of their shared home in Invercargill, circa 1990s; Deano is naturally distraught.
But one fateful night brings the friends back together. Whipping around the streets of the South Island city in a state of panic, Nige hits and kills a luckless Scandinavian tourist (Filip Berg), then decides to dispose of the body on the sly. He seeks out Deano and not his new roommate, gentle giant Gav (Maaka Pohatu), and the two morons spend a 'hilarious’ passage treating the dead man with grotesque disdain. Gav eventually gets involved but the idiots decide that, to cover their tracks, he must go too"¦
The first misjudgement the production makes is assuming that the sickening thud of a backpacker smashing against a speeding car and the subsequent disposing of his twisted corpse is a suitable kicker for a comedy. It isn’t. Perhaps it could have been had the lead characters been sympathetic or engaging in any way. Despite being a big fan of McKenzie’s (TV’s Flight of the Conchords; the recent The Muppets soundtrack) and having had a few chuckles at the antics of the quick-witted Blake in the past, they both come across here as utterly repugnant in their roles.
The other misfires are from director Robert Sarkies and his brother and co-scripter, Duncan (whose 2008 novel the film was based). One of the most respected filmmakers in New Zealand, Robert last directed Out of the Blue (2006) with Karl Urban, the gut-wrenching true story of the Aramoana Massacre and one of my five best films of that year. Having earlier scored a breakout hit with his next-to-no-budget Scarfies (1999), a film that explored the lives of similarly low-brow characters but with far greater depth and narrative strength, more can rightfully be expected of the director.
Nobody seems to be on the same page with Two Little Boys. Blake plays it big and broad (with very little attention to the strong regional accent); McKenzie is so insipid as to be invisible at times; the Sarkies bounce their film from black comedy to friendship drama to '90s satire, with no single element registering strongly. The decision to reintroduce the dead backpacker as a kind of Shakespearean presence haunting Nige is utterly bewildering. The photogenic setting of the beautiful Catlins region is a big plus, as is the 'Oh, look who it is’ value of industry legend Ian Mune and local political identity Tim Shadbolt in bit parts. In all other respects, Two Little Boys is a grievous misuse of the collected talent.