A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Swinging Safari is a coming-of-age dramedy set in 1970s Australia that's full of irresponsible, mature content. Graphic homemade Super 8 movies have tons of gore and slasher effects, including a kid being set on fire. An exploding whale rains down blood, bits of carcass, and slabs of guts everywhere. A character is impaled by an umbrella and a dog is accidentally killed. Adults have a "key party" and swap partners, with a resulting sex scene (a man thrusts behind a woman). A teen girl performs oral sex on many teen boys. Language is crude and extremely frequent, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "t-ts," and more, and drinking and smoking are prevalent among both teens and adults (one adult appears to be an alcoholic). Pills are shown, and parents encourage teens to have sex, drink, and smoke.
What's the story?
In SWINGING SAFARI, it's the 1970s in Wyong Place, Australia. Three families live the good life: They go to the beach, swim, get drunk, throw "key parties," and embrace general chaos. Fourteen-year-old Jeff (Atticus Robb) films everything on his Super 8 camera, enlisting his friends to stage dangerous stunts and outrageously gory killings. His soulmate is Melly (Darcey Wilson); they share matching scars that they got when they were younger and wearing polyester too close to a fire. When a whale washes up on the beach, it causes a stir among the townspeople, and Jeff and Melly start thinking about what adulthood might hold in store for them. One thing is for sure: Jeff plans to make a movie about all of this someday.
Is it any good?
Set in a tacky, suntan oil-smeared version of Australia, this dramedy seems to embrace cheerful pandemonium, but it has a serious side that negates it, making it all feel wasteful and unappealing. As soon as stars like Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, and Radha Mitchell appear, looking greasy and burned out, it becomes apparent that Swinging Safari is going to wrap itself up in the most hideous things the '70s had to offer, including muttonchops, cheesy mustaches, bell bottoms, feathered hair, sunken living rooms, fondue, and water beds. Paced like a gaudy hurricane, Swinging Safari might have been loose, raucous fun -- perhaps a little like writer/director Stephan Elliott's earlier hit The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert -- but there's very little to actually like here.
The mismatch occurs through the coming-of-age part of the story, in which everything is seen through the eyes of the young filmmaker. Jeff is a creaky old cliché, observing everything and waiting, and it doesn't really work in this context. He frowns, slightly, on all the proceedings, so that even his own ridiculously gory films don't have the carefree, absurd quality they could have. The entire movie just feels like the lives of several characters going depressingly off the rails and heading into a hopeless future. Swinging Safari invites us to laugh, but it's all just a little too grim for that to be an option.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Swinging Safari depicts sex. What values are imparted? What are the characters' attitudes toward sex and relationships? How do they compare to your own?
How strong is the violence and gore? What effect does it have? Is it shocking or funny? How did the filmmakers achieve this?
Are these characters appealing despite their irresponsible behavior? How so? What makes irresponsible characters likable sometimes?
Does this movie make the 1970s look like fun? How does it compare to other movies about (or from) the 1970s? How was that decade different from the present day?
- In theaters: June 21, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: July 23, 2019
- Cast: Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Radha Mitchell
- Director: Stephan Elliott
- Studio: Blue Fox Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, language and some underage drinking
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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