If you’ve heard anything about That’s Not My Dog! – and why would you, it’s an Australian film – it’s probably that it features a bunch of professional joksters and no script. Australian film is made without a script: now there’s a news flash. Fortunately it features both a barbeque and a literal truck full of beer otherwise we’d be confusing it with Godard’s latest effort.
To be fair, who needs a script, or even a story, when you have a concept this bloody good: Shane Jacobson and his dad (played by his real-life dad, who is actually pretty decent) invite a whole bunch of local comedians out to their homestead for a barbie, complete with the aforementioned literal truckload of beer. There is one catch: they all have to bring along their best jokes, which they then proceed to tell for the next 80 minutes or so.
It’s important to stress that none of this is actual stand-up comedy as we currently know it; everyone stands around and tells the kind of generic jokes you find in joke books piling up in op shops across the land. The film stresses the fact that these comedians are bringing the best jokes they know to this gathering, but going by the quality of the gags Jacobson might as well have told them to bring along an ouija board so they could summon up the ghost of Maurie Fields.
Back in the days when these kind of jokes were considered actual entertainment, even the most basic of joke-telling stand-up acts usually ended up giving away something of themselves through the jokes they chose to tell. Rodney Dangerfield’s act was pretty much a well-honed barrage of “I can’t get no respect” set-ups and punchlines, but a large part of why they worked was because through all that we got a sense of Dangerfield’s comedy persona as a put-upon loser. This is one step down from that. And that one step is off a cliff.
All we get here – aside from a few snipped of pub band-level live music and a whole lot of astoundingly blatant product placement – are basic jokes that anyone could tell, told by a range of comedy types – Jimoen, Steve Vizard, Paul Hogan and Tim Ferguson are some of the bigger names – who have no real personal link or connection to the jokes they’re telling. They’re decent enough jokes, so some are funny and some are not, but none of them are worth paying movie ticket prices to hear. In theory it might be worth it to see Hogan and Vizard and everyone else on the big screen, but… it’s not.
Which the producers seem to have figured out: this is screening around Australia for three days only – less than a day and a half to go at this stage – as a kind of “special event”. And maybe it’ll work; it definitely feels like the kind of film you’d want to see with a bunch of mates wandering in and out of the cinema at will (it’s not like you’re going to miss a plot twist) as part of a big night out, not sitting practically alone in a daytime cinema because you love Australian comedy just that much.
Not enough to see The BBQ though. Fuck that.