HONOURABLE WALLY NORMAN, THE
Wally Norman (Kevin Harrington) is the foreman at the local meatworks, a typical Aussie family bloke in a bush town. He’s dragged into politics when veteran would-be politician Willy Norman (Alan Cassell), in a whisky-induced blur, puts Wally’s name instead of his own on the nomination form as a candidate for Federal Parliament, against the arrogant F. Ken Oates (Shaun Micallef). Willy’s sidekick Myles (Nathaniel Davison) convinces Wally to run, and Wally’s family are right behind him, but his tendency to faint when making a speech is just one of the hurdles Wally has to overcome if he is to go to Canberra and be a voice for the people. The other is the crooked deal between his political opponent and the scheming Willy.
Review by Louise Keller:
Corrupt pollies, an honest wally and the meddling media are the themes of this Aussie comedy which amuses in parts, but is never the satirical knockout we would like it to be. It’s a gentle comedy about an ordinary family man propelled by accident into the cut-throat world of politics. Inspired by the very Australian name of a man who ran a successful agency for variety artists in the Southern Sydney suburb of Kogarah for many years, the writers have taken the name and created a fictional ‘man of the people’ who becomes an unlikely hero, despite himself. Dingo or drongo? That is the question the television station asks as they look at Wally’s mishaps, as he puts his foot in his mouth and blunders badly in his bid to become a politician. This is a man who faints at the thought of making a speech, and is more at home in the pub having a ‘cold one’ with his mates. A devoted family man, Wally is more passionate about his son’s winning the local goat race in a two-wheeler contraption drawn by the family goat, than driving his hand at politics. But when he is pushed into standing – and ends up sitting – life around him changes.
Television comedy director Ted Emery has made a film that offers some laughs by its depiction of an ordinary bloke with strong family values and no particular ambitions who is thrust into the dog-eat-dog world of ambitious politicians and the fickle media. It’s an easy-going, enjoyable romp, but while we can laugh along with the fun and games, the film lacks pathos and drama that would make it a much more rewarding affair. There is little depth to the characters, resulting in their becoming caricatures rather than real people.
Undoubtedly, this is a concept that would sit more comfortably as a tv sitcom, and Emery is the right man to sit at that helm. Kevin Harrington is a likeable enough Wally while Shaun Micallef’s smarmy larger-than-life politician is easy to loathe, and Tom Budge’s weasel-like Willie is as slippery as a snake. For me, the highlight is the inspired casting of advertising man John Singleton in a cameo as the Prime Minister – it’s a fun moment and it does tickle my fancy. The Honourable Wally Norman is a formulaic film with a predictable happy ending and although there are some chuckles along the way, it’s not especially memorable, nor does it command repeated viewing.
Review By Andrew L. Urban:
For the life of me I can’t figure out why this film was chosen to open the 50th Sydney Film Festival; it is neither creatively challenging, cinematically adventurous or even entertainingly funny. Not without some merit, the film is nevertheless fighting way above its weight. As a telemovie it may satisfy an audience familiar with its cast, and with the concept of short, obvious jokes playing on the small screen as part of the domestic
hubub. On the biggish screen, the film is a shallow and contrived affair with the occasional shadow of humour passing over it. The problem is deep-seated in standard Australian filmmaking practice: script development that lacks real rigour.
The basic premise is so slight that it could only work as a sketch, or at best a half hour sitcom. The characters are perfunctory and grossly oversimplified - eg F. Ken Oats, whose name delights with the Aussie tradition of taking the piss out of pomposity but can’t sustain as a genuine source of humour for a feature film of 100 minutes. Kevin Harrington’s Wally is ordinary alright, largely from the lack of complexity in the writing. His is a character we should embrace as the ordinary bloke, the everyman of great classic films that use this plot scenario, whose sense of decency, whose common sense and whose innocence are the tools from which comedy is born. I didn’t believe any of it, so I didn’t laugh with or even at Wally Norman, although some people at the premiere did, and the film may be more entertaining if you see it with no expectations.
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HONOURABLE WALLY NORMAN, THE (M)
CAST: Kevin Harrington, Tom Budge, Bryan Dawe, Reg Evans, Rosalind Hammond, Shaun Micallef, Greig Pickhaver, Keith Robinson, Bruce Venables, Octavia Barron-Martin, Alan Cassell
PRODUCER: Emile Sherman, Jonathan Shteinman
DIRECTOR: Ted Emery
SCRIPT: Andrew Jones, Rick Kalowski
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Foreman
EDITOR: Stephen Evans
MUSIC: Colin Swan
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rita Zanchetta
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Becker Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 13, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Magna Pacific
VIDEO RELEASE: March 31, 2004