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With: Kick Gurry, Maya Stange, Russell Dykstra, Brett Stiller, Pia Miranda
Written by: Alex Proyas, Dave Warner, Michael Udesky
Directed by: Alex Proyas
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, drug use and language
Running Time: 106
Date: 10/03/2002
IMDB

Garage Days (2003)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Lite Rock

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

According to those beer commercials, Australia is one of the hardest, toughest places on earth.

And indeed, many Australian actors and filmmakers have invaded Hollywood over the past couple of decades, adding an edge to our increasingly flabby cinema.

Now it appears that soft, formulaic American filmmaking has returned the favor, sneaking its way into Australia and specifically into the new production Garage Days.

Ostensibly a rock 'n' roll movie, Garage Days is absolutely the wussiest rock movie since Crossroads or maybe even Rick Springfield's Hard to Hold (1984). It even makes the PG-rated Almost Famous look hardcore.

To start, the band in Garage Days doesn't actually play any music. (Nor do they have a name.) Whenever we hear them, they've just ended a song, or they're somehow interrupted.

As the movie begins, the band tromps around onstage lip-syncing to AC/DC's "High Voltage" (a truly great Australian band) -- obviously a dream sequence. And when the band finally plays their own song at the end, it turns out that they actually suck.

This is the movie's one big joke, and I can't be faulted for giving it away because even the movie's poster gives it away. No, Garage Days is more concerned with generic relationship troubles that even Jerry Springer can make more interesting. Since we don't know who these musicians are, what they play, what they like or what they do, we just don't care.

The lead singer, Freddy (Kick Gurry), is one of those whiners who just wants people to care about his music as much as he does; in other words he wants a million-dollar recording contract. The lead guitarist, Joe (Brett Stiller), is just about insane. He has sex with a (possibly imaginary) dominatrix and carries around a melon named Mellie after he finds out that his legit girlfriend, Kate (Maya Stange), is pregnant.

Meanwhile, the Kate and Freddy have shared a passionate kiss and the pregnancy is the only thing keeping them apart. The lead singer is already in a sexual relationship with the band's cute bass player, Tanya (Pia Miranda), but she leaves him for the pill-popping drummer, Lucius (Chris Sadrinna).

The band's ineffectual fat, bald manager Bruno (Russell Dykstra) hangs around a lot but doesn't actually do anything except eat all the time. (Isn't that hysterical?)

At the same time, Freddy finds a wallet belonging to a big-time rock manager, Shad Kern (Marton Csokas), and the band comes very close to a shot at the big time. Kern manages a glam-rock band, Sprimp, whose lead singer actually wears eye makeup and fur coats.

Kern gives Freddy and Bruno backstage passes to see Sprimp so that they can schmooze. But when they need to see Kern again later in the story, they suddenly have new backstage passes for another local show. Other plot twists hinge on sitcom moments, misunderstandings and overheard conversations.

The entire movie smacks of being a movie: clubs and rehearsal rooms feel like sets, characters feel like actors and speech feels like dialogue. It's assembly-line filmmaking; we may as well be watching a boy band instead of a rock band.

Most shockingly of all, Garage Days marks the third film by Alex Proyas, whom Roger Ebert once called "the next Stanley Kubrick" for his visionary work in The Crow (1994) and Dark City (1998) two excellent sci-fi films with brains as well as brawn. Proyas tries to show off a bit in Garage Days with some tricky photography and some digital effects, but it's to no avail. The script is unsalvageable.

Proyas also tries to cover up the movie's lack of guts with a hip 70s-80s garage, New Wave soundtrack including great tunes by the Violent Femmes, the Jam, the Cure, Roxy Music, and others. But this only serves to blur the timeline in which the movie takes place. Presumably it's modern day, but there's very little modern about it. (Perhaps the filmmakers could have studied the story of the Vines, a great garage-sounding Australian band currently on the scene.)

That's the movie's biggest failing: lack of atmosphere. Not one moment ever feels legitimate. It appears as if none of the filmmakers or actors have ever spent one moment playing in a band or even watching a band. Whenever they finish a song, the band members chant, "Woo! That was awesome!" without second-guessing their work. No one ever talks music and nothing ever feels professional.

Garage Days made me long for the underrated 2001 Mark Wahlberg movie Rock Star, which may not have been a masterpiece, but at least got all these things right.

DVD Details: Extras include a commentary track by director Alex Proyas, deleted scenes, a "backstage pass," cast and director interviews and outtakes and goofs. Viewers can choose between pan-and-scan and widescreen anamorphic formats.

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