Raucous ‘Welcome to Woop Woop’ a Gross-Out, Hit-and-Miss Comedy
Teddy (Johnathon Schaech) can’t believe his luck. The cockatoo smuggler made it out of New York after a stripper girlfriend went crazy and killed a pair of mobsters, and now, in the middle of nowhere, on a dusty, two-lane road cutting across barren kangaroo country in Australia’s Outback, he’s picked up a beautiful, red-haired hitchhiker who’s providing--no, compelling!--the best sex of his life.
“I love you!” he shouts, in a moment of exhilaration.
“Do you mean it?” she asks.
The next thing he knows, the heavily drugged Teddy is coming to in a pig slough, covered with mud and cake icing, facing a band of people who look as if they’ve spilled out of a garbage truck. Among them is a glowing Angie (Susie Porter), giving him the news that they were married while he was out.
Now, he really can’t believe his luck.
Welcome to “Welcome to Woop Woop,” a raucous, gross-out comedy set in an uncharted village of lowlifes built from refuse on the slopes of an abandoned asbestos mine. It’s Stephan Elliott’s first film since his international hit “The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert,” and you might wish he’d rested on his laurels.
Where “Priscilla” found high comedy in a sensitive portrayal of a trio of drag queens crossing the Outback in a pink bus and a glorious wardrobe, “Woop Woop” seeks low comedy among a tribe of former miners who seem to have reinvented themselves as sewer rats. Lizzy Gardiner’s costuming for these characters may be as creative as her Oscar-winning designs for “Priscilla,” but no one will call it eye candy.
There are many funny moments in “Woop Woop,” and two very good performances. One is from Porter, who plays Angie with an unself-conscious abandon that gives the film comic liftoff whenever she appears, and from a nearly unrecognizable Rod Taylor, a former Hollywood leading man who returns to his native Australia to play Teddy’s father-in-law, the cruel, iron-fisted ruler of Woop Woop.
There’s also a clever conceit. For entertainment, in the absence of television and radio, the denizens of Woop Woop, who earn their meager livings making dog food from kangaroo road kill, are sonically bathed from loudspeakers with the soundtracks of Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals. At night, they gather to watch film versions of “Sound of Music” and “South Pacific,” and mime the performances.
But what Elliott has created is a meandering goof in search of a purpose. Though the film is adapted by Michael Thomas (“Backbeat”) from a novel, it plays like an extended, and heavily camped-up episode of “Twilight Zone,” as drawn by Mad magazine.
Through most of the movie, we simply follow Teddy around the scruffy hovels and refuse stacks of Woop Woop, as he tries to satiate Angie and calm her father, create his own political base from the community’s losers, rebuild his commandeered van, and team up with Angie’s wiser sister Krystal (Dee Smart) for an escape run.
Schaech, one of the stars of Tom Hanks’ “That Thing You Do!,” has an amiable presence, but seems as lost in his role as his role is lost in “Woop Woop.” You know you’re in trouble when the hero of your story is the least interesting one in it.
* MPAA rating: R for strong sexuality and language, and for some drug content. Times guideline: inappropriate for younger audiences.
‘Welcome to Woop Woop’
Johnathon Schaech: Teddy
Rod Taylor: Daddy-O
Susie Porter: Angie
Dee Smart: Krystal
MGM/UA presents a Scala Productions and Unthank Films and Andrew L. Urban film. Directed by Stephan Elliott. Produced by Finola Dwyer. Screenwriter, Michael Thomas. Director of design, Owen Paterson. Costumes, Lizzy Gardiner. Editor, Martin Walsh. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.
Cineplex Beverly Center, La Cienega at Beverly Boulevard, (310) 652-7760; AMC Santa Monica 7, 1310 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, (310) 395-3030.