With a strong pedigree in short-form and TV comedy, news that thedownlowconcept had a feature-length effort on the way came as exciting news. Unfortunately, the writing-directing trio’s first big screen effort, Gary of the Pacific, is somewhat of a disappointment.
The titular Gary – Josh Thomson in a long-overdue lead role – is a loser real estate agent, returning home to a small Pacific island on the brink of being swallowed by rising sea levels, and seizing an opportunity to take the mantle of chief. Rather than focusing on the future of his sudden subjects, however, Gary’s motive is to keep his economically unsustainable and egotistically untethered lifestyle afloat, including giving a boost to a floundering romantic relationship with an unenthusiastic girlfriend/employee.
Thomson’s unafraid to veer from selfish to buffoon, romantic to rotten, comfortable in the many modes required of him. Gary certainly doesn’t shirk from trying to squeeze as many gags out of Thomson’s arse, or classing up its Pacific island setting by putting him in unflattering garb, as it possibly can. It’s a shame, though, that the film really doesn’t get enough out of his prodigious mirth, though he seems at ease in Gary’s skin. Elsewhere, Matt Whelan and Dave Fane prove highlights of the supporting cast with perfectly-pitched dry and over-the-top turns respectively.
Sub-plots come and go at a whim, and the film never seems entirely confident of what its main thrust should be as it juggles romance, familial responsibilities, wilful ignorance of future consequences – even a ghost – within its generally conventional framework. Most deflating of all, is that Gary is cast as too reprehensible a figure to deserve redemption. Without the audience on his side, it’s hard to care how things will pan out for him.
For those less worried about the above than just seeing a bunch of jokes, Gary may still come up short in major laugh-out-loud moments. There’s humour throughout, but often lower-key than you’d expect from a cinematic comedy, resulting in amusement rather than belly laughs for the majority of the film. In a more clearly character-driven exercise that would be fine, but that can’t sustain the energy needed for this broadly-pitched pic.