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A nostalgic Kiwi road trip with Pork Pie

Film & TV

The Kiwi comedy Goodbye Pork Pie was the first R13 film I ever saw at the cinema. Just me, a friend, a couple of Choc-tops, a box of Snifters and not a parent in sight.

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In addition to one indestructible yellow Mini and a trio of mismatched characters hell-bent on taking it from one end of the country to the other, there were car chases, mild sex scenes, parties, marijuana and the obligatory “strong language”.

Bloody hell. We felt pretty grown-up, eh?

You might look at the trailer now and think Kiwis must have been sorely lacking in entertainment in the early ’80s but that film – made on a shoestring with just 25 cast and crew – was a blockbuster. Some have even suggested it was the coming of age of New Zealand cinema.

Now director Matt Murphy, son of original director Geoff Murphy, has remade the film with the abridged title Pork Pie and a cast that includes James Rolleston, star of the brilliant 2010 movie Boy. (Rolleston has grown up a lot since then – he’s old enough to hold a driver’s licence … maybe.)

The reboot is slicker and shinier, as is the Mini, but it retains the same plotlines and key scenes, including a ripper car chase through the streets of Wellington’s CBD (eat your heart out, Fast and Furious).

Pork Pie begins in Auckland (the top of the North Island), where melancholy Jon (Dean O’Gorman) – a supposed novelist whose last effort was described by his publisher as “a shit sandwich without the bread” – sets out on a mission to win back ex-girlfriend Susie, who has left him for a very good reason.

Jon ends up hitching a lift with boy-racer Luke (Rolleston) and they decide to drive all the way to Invercargill (at the bottom of the South Island) in pursuit of Suzie, picking up anti-live-animal-exports campaigner Keira (Australian actress Ashleigh Cummings, Puberty Blues) at a burger joint along the way.

Problem is, the Mini is stolen, and the rebels with a cause – who are dubbed the Blondini Gang by the media – soon have the cops in hot pursuit.

That’s when shit gets real, bro.

What follows is a crazy road and rail trip that takes in some very speccy New Zealand scenery, especially in the Otago region, and is given added pace by a soundtrack featuring Kiwi artists such as Lorde, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Dave Dobbin. There’s also a bit of sex, parties, bongs, dress-ups, sheep, strong language, Minis galore and a cameo appearance by Invercargill’s long-time mayor, Tim Shadbolt.

According to NZ on Screen, the new Pork Pie became the country’s fourth highest-grossing local release during its first five days in cinemas.

Kiwi reviewers, however, haven’t been terribly kind. One suggested it presented a “romanticised, pre-Rogernomics view of New Zealand” that would make audiences think “we’re still a country of pie-filled independent garages around every corner and a fully-operational rail system”.

Perhaps it’s because I haven’t lived in New Zealand for more than 20 years, but I found the nostalgic feel of the film endearing and I imagine many will view it as quintessentially Kiwi.

Sure, Pork Pie lacks the grungy feel of the original, the characters are a bit less whacky and it’s hardly grounded in realism, but it’s a fun romp if you’re prepared to surrender to the trip.

Oh, and it’s rated M – but the kids will probably be streaming it direct to their devices in a few months’ time anyway. Times have changed.

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