Based on a character created for British satirical weekly Private Eye, cult comedy The Adventures of Barry McKenzie is a bawdy, raucous, ‘of its time’ movie that won’t find favour with the millennials but shouldn’t be dismissed since it’s a well-made, fun endeavour.
Aussie ‘ocker’ Barry (Barry Crocker) is forced to go to England as part of an inheritance, and along for the ride is his Auntie Edna (Barry Humphries, in the first appearance of his most famous comic character). His misadventures in London are an episodic affair and peppered with familiar faces such as Spike Milligan, Dennis Price, and Peter Cook (who started Private Eye back in the ‘60s). Forever in search of a cold tin of Fosters, Barry is surprisingly likeable, if a little dim-witted and naïve. His attempts at impressing the ladies generally fail and despite the coarseness of his language and backwards attitude, comes across fairly inoffensive and a sympathetic chap.
Co-written by Humphries and director Bruce Beresford (yes, the guy who helmed Driving Miss Daisy), this is a simple fish out of water story and is full of stereotypes. The Aussies are boorish, womanising drunkards and the British are weird, rip off artists. This isn’t mean spirited affair but also isn’t biting satire. While it may not be laugh out loud funny, it does offer enough humour to keep the interest, with Barry’s motor mouth spouting colloquialisms (if you want to know where we get our numerous euphemisms for going for a wee, look no further) and the odd behaviour of the eccentric Brits (Dennis Price, an acting legend in one of his final films, boasts some hilarious sexual peccadillos). Barry McKenzie fares better than some comedies of the era, largely due to the honest, unashamed depiction of its main character. The deliberate crassness of some of the comedy aside, it’s a fun watch for those who pine for the olden days when you could say what you want.
Umbrella’s Blu-ray release boasts a smorgasbord of special features. A two-hour documentary takes us through the making of the film, with the main cast and director being completely honest in their appraisal. The political correctness debate is raised, and not swept under the carpet, neither is the ‘chunder’ controversy. Separate interviews and archive material - including several short films. The disc is recommended if only because it’s packed more than a vegemite sandwich.