Billy and Lucy have grown up together in a small, close-knit Australian country town, where they form one of the town's most formidable Ute driving teams. When Billy takes one risky car stunt too far, Lucy declares she is moving to the city - sending Billy into a spin. Amid the mayhem of the town's annual "Bachelors and Spinsters" party, Billy only has one night to wake up to his true feelings for his best friend - or lose her forever. Spin Out is a fresh, feel-good comedy romance for the young and the young at heart.
A lot of Australian comedy – on the big screen at least – is about mocking people. From Down Under to Fat Pizza vs Housos, poking fun is a core part of our comedic diet. Spin Out takes the opposite approach: this gentle romantic comedy set over a day and night at a B&S (Bachelors and Spinsters) Ball is firmly committed to treating the bush and the people who live there with respect. If you’re thinking that “respect” isn’t usually a source of classic comedy, you’re starting to see the problem here.
Billy (Xavier Samuel) drives a ute. His best mate and maybe possible romantic interest Lucy (Morgan Griffin) also drives a ute. Together – and with Billy’s other best mate Sparrow (Travis Jeffery) in a cow costume for comic relief – they’re the best driving team in the region. But when Billy takes a stunt at a ute muster too far, Lucy decides she’s had enough of his reckless ways and announces she’s moving to Sydney. Billy now only has one night to change her mind. Luckily that night is a massive party where anything is possible as long as you add alcohol.
For a 90-minute film set over one night, writer and co-director (with comedy stalwart Marc Gracie) Tim Ferguson packs in a lot of plot. While Billy and Lucy are feuding, Sparrow is angsting over his love for B&S Ball bouncer Scary Mary (Melissa Bergland); a trio of amicable losers (Mark Nicholson, Brendan Bacon and Thomas Blackburne) are trying to lure their partners (Lisa Kowalski, Piagrace Moon and Aileen Huynh) back after a scheme to win their respect by joining the army backfired; professional beer drinker Podge (Dorje Swallow) is getting ready to go for the can-sinking record, unaware that his pregnant girlfriend (Brooke McClymont) has something important to tell him; and a blonde pair of siblings (Lincoln Lewis and Christie Whelan Browne) have arrived from the big city looking for love. No prizes for guessing who the duo set their sights on.
With such a large cast it’s no surprise that none of the characters are really fleshed out (strong performances from everyone lift most of the weight there), nor is it a shock that the storylines are all pretty straightforward. It’s a romantic comedy; much of the appeal comes from its predictability. But just because we know everyone’s going to end up with someone doesn’t mean there couldn’t have been a couple of surprises scattered along the way. As it stands, the closest thing to a twist is a male dress-wearing duo who wake up the next morning in each other’s arms, only to then swear that nothing happened (but that they’re looking forward to nothing happening again next year). For a movie made in 2016, it’s a very odd moment.
Where this really falls down is the comedy. Refusing to populate the film with over-the-top comedy grotesques or go down the extreme party route of films like Project X or Sisters, it occupies a bland middle ground where a running gag about a couple who never stop kissing is a high point. The big set-piece moment is the creation of a “beer windmill” where a windmill sprays beer while everyone stands under it looking up. Presumably they’re wondering “Why can’t Australian filmmakers come up with decent visual jokes?”
“Respect” isn’t really a word you want to use to describe a comedy, but despite being set at a terrifying bacchanal built around dangerous ute stunts, excessive drinking and a fairly extensive disregard for the norms of civilised society, respect is what Spin Out is all about. Everyone here, even the big city interlopers, is basically decent and everyone’s just out for some sensible, non-aggressive fun. Which would be fine if the end result stood out in any way; with no real conflict and few laugh-out-loud jokes, the only people this film doesn’t respect are those looking for a memorable time.
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