A teenager pursues his childhood dream of becoming the best at reverse running.

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Amiable Oz comedy sticks to the middle lane.

Given that the past 12 months of Australian big-screen comedy has been arguably its direst ever, the amiably silly low-budgeter Reverse Runner comes as somewhat of a revelation. The debut work of writer/directors Jarrod Theodore and Lachlan Ryan and their production outfit Theory Pictures suggests that there may be a silver lining on the dark cloud that is Screen Australia’s policy on indie feature comedy funding.

Theodore and Ryan’s knack for pacing immeasurably benefits their admittedly thin premise



So named after the alternative athletic 'skill’ where contestants run backwards into cult-hero 'glory’, this big-hearted, small-town comedy centres on 'Kid’ Campbell (the very likable Dan Cannon) and his dream to emulate his hero, reverse-running legend John Jones (real-life marathon icon Steve Moneghetti).

Under the guidance of the passionate but luckless Coach Leroy (Rosco Brauer), Kid endeavours to overcome his arch-rival Stephen 'SJ’ James (Julian Shaw), a bitter father (Daryl Cannon) who was robbed of his own sporting dream to become a champion kite-flyer, and the memory of a final race-day embarrassment which saw him disqualified for turning his shoulders 25 percent (making his reverse run into a sideways one).

The narrative is peopled with broadly-etched eccentrics who fill the plotting gaps with nutty shenanigans, but Theodore and Ryan’s knack for pacing immeasurably benefits their admittedly thin premise.

Although clearly hindered on occasion by budget limitations, the pair shares a commercial mindset. The well-constructed uses of old standards like montages, feisty love interests (a suitably adorable Bianca Linton), a slow-motion finale and non-stop upbeat pop classics certainly don’t break new ground but are employed with some skill.

Naturally, there’s hiccups indicative of the extended production schedule that often afflicts low-budget films, like the occasional extra who looks directly to camera and can’t be excised, and the high percentage of the film’s audio that was clearly added in post; many of the film’s funniest lines and key scenes are bridged by out-of-shot voices (a technique, it should be noted, employed by A-listers too, like Judd Apatow). Those with no tolerance for rough-hewn passion projects may struggle with Reverse Runner.

Village Roadshow doesn’t often roll the dice on unknown, small-scale properties, so the distributor’s faith in releasing the film should be commended. Their commitment to multiplex screens in Melbourne’s suburban markets (notably Geelong, where much of the film was shot) is admirable.

Adding to Reverse Runner’s credibility is the out-of-nowhere involvement of Stephen Herek, director of Hollywood hits Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Mr. Holland’s Opus and 101 Dalmatians and whose commercial sensibilities and L.A. connections can only help the production’s exposure.