Jack Simpson (Mick Molloy) is a bit of a lost soul. He works in a city office and operates a bit of a rort, having joined the lawn bowling club opposite his workplace in order to get cheap parking. When the Cityside Bowling Club is confronted by its financial difficulties and its members decide to enter a bowling tournament with the hope of winning cash, they contact Jack, a member on the books, to make up a team to compete. Much to his surprise, Jack begins to enjoy his involvement with the club, and finds himself up against businessman Bernie Fowler (John Clarke), who is intent on taking over the club and installing poker machines.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I saw Crackerjack at the 2002 Movie Convention on the Gold Coast, in the company of a couple of hundred cinema operators and other industry folks – and we all laughed. So I guess the film plays well to a receptive audience, its humour needing the nourishment of a crowd. But that’s not to damn the film with faint praise, because I did find in it several things of merit, including a script with genuine affection for its characters and a less than bombastic approach to the humour. Maybe it’s the film’s Melbourne connections, but instead of going too broad, it stays within a range of comedy that doesn’t rely on bashing a gag to death. Mick Molloy is a suitably chronic figure to be the anti hero, and Judith Lucy adds a welcome ascerbic kick to the cast. John Clarke is enjoyably slimy and the veterans in the main supporting roles are a welcome change from youngsters – for a comedy. Molloy also deserves credit for the discovery of a crackerjack story in the bowels of lawn bowling.
Review by Louise Keller:
According to the Macquarie Dictionary, the term crackerjack is a colloquial term referring to a person of marked ability; something exceptionally fine. I don’t know whether the term is really used in the bowling world, but in Mick Molloy’s Crackerjack, the reference is to the pinnacle of achievement on the bowling green. This is what could be called ‘a gentle Australian comedy’, whose humour is drawn from the subtle observation of characters in their daily lives. These comprise the elderly bowling club members with their hearing aids, perms and a history of camaraderie whose routine is disturbed by the unpredictable loud-mouth of someone belonging to another generation. While the film successfully draws us into the world of bowls and its characters, the humour left me wanting. I just didn’t find it funny. There are a few humorous notions, but the humour seems to be at the expense of the characters: it often feels as though we are laughing at – and not with - them. I like the premise of throwing a fish out-of-water into the frying pan, as it were, but the ideas just don’t seem to sizzle. They are as tired as the gag about baking herbed scones with marijuana. It’s hardly a new idea and the gag falls flat. The fancy dress fund raiser is fun and subtly handled, when we meet the likes of Sir Francis Drake, Elvis and Saddam Hussein. The fact that Molloy actually looks like Hussein is the real joke, and this time, the joke is not overplayed. I also got a kick out of the flavour and colour of this fastidious world that has jammed in a time warp: beer is still at 1972 prices, lamingtons are still favourites and the good ol’ swear jar seems to benefit from most heated conversations. But I never really believed; the characters were not real. I blame it on the script – the performances are certainly enjoyable with Bill Hunter in splendid form and there are some great moments by thesps Monica Maughan, John Clarke and Lois Ramsey. Molloy’s performance doesn’t quite hit the mark, although there were quite a few ripples of laughter at the screening when I saw the film. Maybe I missed something. The crackerjack part.
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MICK MOLLOY interview by Andrew L. Urban
CAST: Mick Molloy, Samuel Johnson, Bill Hunter, Monica Maughan, Frank Wilson, John Clarke, Judith Lucy, Lois Ramsey
PRODUCER: Stephen Luby, Mick Molloy
DIRECTOR: Paul Moloney
SCRIPT: Mick Molloy, Richard Molloy
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brent Crockett
EDITOR: Ken Sallows
MUSIC: Gareth Skinner
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Penny Southgate
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 7, 2002