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Garage Days

Garage Days is an amiable, playful nothing of a picture. The most impressive part of that is that it is from Alex Proyas, the director of two of the most brilliantly oppressive films of the last decade. With both The Crow and Dark City, Proyas ushered in the black leather trench coat chic of The Matrix and serious, disaffected youth everywhere. This time Proyas turns his visionary eye to something with a bit more color, but a lot less depth.

The hack pitch of this picture goes would go something like, "It's The Commitments meets Empire Records, but it's Australian." The critic just tacks on, "and not quite as good as either picture."

Freddy (Kick Gurry) has heavy metal wishes and rock and roll dreams, even when he's busy not satisfying his band's bass player, Tanya (Pia Miranda). Meanwhile his lead guitar Joe (Brett Stiller) isn't paying enough attention to his own girlfriend (Maya Stange). Throw in a drug-obsessed, over-sexed drummer (Chris Sadrinna) and only the dimmest bulb doesn't know how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

The nice thing is Proyas gets most of the obvious reordering of these relationships out of the way early, and then enjoys the ensuing carnage. If the picture has one overly redeeming feature it's that it takes really standard material and assembles it a little differently than usual. There is a pregnancy, a worried father, and a crazy goth chick. All of these are weaved woven around the band's attempts at getting its first big break. As much fun as this all sounds, it's at best okay.

Everything about this film is just okay. No real risks are taken and therefore no real payoff is received. The cast seems talented enough but, except for Sadrinna, they don't really get to show it. Sadrinna gets all the fun, with wide, eye-linered lids and an odd resemblance to a younger, more exciting Val Kilmer.

In fact, if this picture has one good excuse it's the potential use as a 'new talent sampler' for a hurting industry. While there's more than a fair selection of Aussie acting talent working these days, a few more wouldn't hurt. Marton Csokas, while he is certainly tired of hearing it, does an excellent Russell Crowe-on-a-budget in his role as a sleazy promoter, and Pia Miranda as a bass player is just as cute as Go-Go's guitarist Jane Wiedlin.

Many of Garage Days' jokes fall flat because the subject matter is already so outrageous. One character is given a book about the 'Painted Bands of the 70's' entitled Kiss and Make-up. Cute, unless you know this joke title is the actual title of Gene Simmons' latest book. The only scenes of true rock and roll rebellion come against the slot machines that Freddy sees as the vanguard of the enemy. Maybe that's why the over-the-top performances are the ones that work; the rest come off real and even real rock and roll doesn't come off real.

Proyas shows his that he still has chops when it comes to stimulating visuals - even with ordinary subject matter. A standard 'dejected in the rain' scene gets a different spin with huge digital raindrops frozen in the air. The only problem with the style in this one is that it starts fresh and vibrant, and by the end it devolves into fairly standard teen comedy direction. Like Baz Luhrman, Proyas bursts out of the gate but fails to sustain his breathless pace.

Not the rebellious rock anthem it seems to believe it is, Garage Days is fine enough bubble gum pop. It's the kind of movie with a kitschy little curtain call/dance number to send the crowd home smiling. A few of these kids will go on to bigger and better things, and Proyas shows his skills are still intact, they just may not lie in comedy. Destined to close quietly and be discovered and loved by a few, Garage Days has the makings of a cult picture - or at least one of the more watchable features on VH-1's Movies That Rock.


Jordan Rosa

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