Released 2022. Director: James Pratt
IN HIS OWN WORDS, WRITER/DIRECTOR/STAR OF MALIBU CRASH JAMES PRATT describes his movie as “Dumb and Dumb come to Bondi Beach, Australia”. Those few words give you a good idea what to expect: idiots, shenanigans, goofiness, colossal blunders and a royal riot of a mess.
The basic plot involves two best mates travelling halfway around the world to stop a wedding. There’s an element of romantic comedy in its construction, with the emphasis on comedy and a few spins that take it away from your typical rom-com formula. For starters, the boy-meets-girl part is only a brief flashback and the girl in question is absent from the entire movie until the very end, and even then, it’s an identity switch as to the genuine romantic interest.
Michael (James Pratt) receives a couple of voice messages from Bridget, last seen eight years ago at high school, telling him she’s getting married and they have a son together. Spurred on by his roommate Duey (Billy White), Michael thinks this is his second chance and the pair of unemployed slackers somehow con their way from Los Angeles to Sydney, pretending to be elite film school students hired to shoot some restaurant commercials.
How the comedy works here is to create situations and watch people fumble. Some of them are farcical, others physical and sight gags, not all of them effective. Michael and Duey are a couple of immature buddies and definitely not the sharpest tools in the shed. They are socially awkward and at times downright brainless, as when they try to bribe some random guy with twenty bucks to be Bradley Cooper.
Through the series of inevitable comic blunders, it’s worth noting that Pratt defies the norm of the genre by playing his character straight, a simple, trusting man who doesn’t think things through properly before acting, and not a manic, wacky buffoon. In his hazy dopiness, Michael brings a gentle naivety that in effect makes his character a sweet and hopeless romantic. Duey, on the other hand, is made for comic purpose. He says the wrong things, he's always stuffing his face, he has the worst ideas and he’s there to make the hero look less dumb by comparison. If you’ve seen Notting Hill, Duey is to Michael as Rhys Ifans is to Hugh Grant.
The easygoing camaraderie between Michael and Duey – not the farcical charade, not the goofy interactions with other characters, not the misguided hope of rekindling a lost love – is what sustains the movie. One would not have lasted a day without the other. It feels like a missed opportunity that the movie doesn’t delve more into the bromance of these two best pals for comic gold as well as a dose of pathos to enrich the narrative.
For an indie project with little money and shot during Covid time, the movie has its drawback noticeable on occasion in production value and continuity issues. That being said, we’ve seen how some big-budget Hollywood comedies try too hard to be funny and starry-eyed and yet produce hollow sentimentality and corny characters. Malibu Crush, with a simple story of a guy searching for love driven by a pure and guileless wish, never takes itself too seriously and is made for those who prefer their comedies unpretentious, dopey, light and fluffy as cotton candy.
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