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Crackerjack may be the first Australian lawn bowling comedy, but it’s themes are universal, its co-writer and star Mick Molloy tells Andrew L. Urban.

With its old fashioned vernacular title – Crackerjack means excellent or wonderful in traditional Australian usage – the new Australian comedy by new Australian filmmaking team of Molloy Boy Productions, is a character comedy set in the world of lawn bowls “which is a sport indigenous to the Commonwealth countries, having been developed in England,” says co-writer, producer and the film’s star, Mick Molloy, television and stand up comedian – and now film star. “But the humour is universal because the bowling club is just another front for social mixing.”

Molloy is also notable for investing in the film personally, “a fact that did impress some of the other people we approached for finance,” he says. 

The idea of setting a comedy in a bowling club came to Molloy by chance, when out of curiosity he wandered into a club near the Molloy Boy Productions office in Melbourne’s Richmond, which he shares with his brother Richard and producer Stephen Luby. “Most of the members are older and have a rich, deep well of oral history and anecdotes that they are willing to share…it seemed like a good place to pick up good material for a screenplay.”

The brothers spent two months cruising through Melbourne suburbs, checking out the bowling clubs, each a unique oasis of green lawns and its own character – and characters. The result is Crackerjack, “about a group of people who, under the umbrella of an impoverished little club, band together to fight off a developer who wants to get his hands on the property.”

Lest some people think otherwise, Molloy is adamant that the film doesn’t laugh at its characters or make fun of them. “I totally reject that idea,” he says, “it’s not the case. We were very conscious of [the danger] of that because the last thing we wanted to do was to go and poke fun at the oldies. And if you have a look, it’s mostly the younger people who seem to be on the receiving end … and there are no rules to having fun and nowhere does it say that young and old people can’t have fun together. And it turns out that in Australia the way you do that is gentle ribbing.”

"based almost entirely on the research"

Directed by Paul Moloney (Molloy felt he was wearing enough hats), Crackerjack is based almost entirely on the research, although the characters are inventions, and the events are not in a real life sequence. The cast of veteran Australians like Bill Hunter and young comedians like Molloy, Judith Lucy and John Clarke have relatively high profiles in Australia – but Molloy says the film relies more on the humour from the characters than on their marquee value.

“I’ve known Paul through television,” says Molloy, “and in Australia guys who come through that industry come through a pretty tough school, so he was ideal for a relatively low budget film where everything has to get done efficiently.”

Published November 7, 2002

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