Blinky Bill the Movie (2015)

After his father goes missing on an expedition, young Blinky Bill (Ryan Kwanten) — a cheeky koala — ignores his mother’s wishes and sets off into the Australian outback in search of his dad. Along the way, he encounters a happily domesticated koala named Nutsy (Robin McLeavy), a wild cat with a strong disdain against koalas, Sir Claude (Rufus Sewell), and several other kooky critters including ostrich sisters Beryl and Cheryl (Toni Collette), Wombo the wombat (Barry Humphries) and Jacko the lizard (David Wenham).

Created by New Zealand-born author and illustrator Dorothy Wall, Blinky Bill has become somewhat of an Australian icon after having debuted in the 1930s, with the character still being recognized today. This anthropomorphic koala and his pals are certainly worthy of a ‘reintroduction’ of sorts, particularly aimed toward today’s contemporary generation, who perhaps are not as familiar with Blinky or his adventures as the generations before; the material certainly has all the ingredients to compete on a world stage — fluffy animals, a cheeky attitude, lush, colorful landscapes and fun humor. So where is that world-class film?

I can’t say I’m a fan of ‘kiddie’ entertainment, but I do enjoy a good family film. What’s the difference, you ask?

As I define it, a family film is broader and accessible to all, possessing enough maturity and/or wit to appeal to adults, while not being so over-done that it isolates children from engaging with it — think Shrek (2001) for CG animation or Finding Neverland (2004) for live-action drama.

A kid’s flick, in comparison, is squarely aimed at youngsters (usually around 5 years of age), which wouldn’t be much a problem if it weren’t for the fact that most movies in this camp tend to talk down to their audience — children and their parents alike. The result? Disengagement. Enter Blinky Bill the Movie.

Tarzan returns ... as a fur-ball.
Tarzan returns … as a fur-ball.

At 93 minutes, Blinky Bill the Movie spreads what little material it has for far too long a time, all the while making its audience feel rather stupid. How? By assuming that its narrative shortcomings, namely gaping plot-holes, are nothing to worry about seeing as the audience won’t even notice. Really? Come on.

When viewers realize that Blinky’s apparent ‘epic’ venture could’ve been quickly resolved in a car (with sails), it sorta pulls the rug out from under their feet, flailing any feeling of adventure it had build prior. It’d be the equivalent to finding out that Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story (1995) actually had a working jetpack or if Bilbo had caught a train back home in The Hobbit trilogy.

Throw in an antagonistic cat, a rather bored sounding Rufus Sewell, A Knight’s Tale (2001), who has no genuine reason to be a villain — just what the Hell does this feline want anyway? — while underdeveloping another — a tyrannical goanna, Mayor Cranklepot, voiced by Barry Otto, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010) — and what you finish off with is a loose journey, with little in the way of dramatic conflict.

It’s a join-the-dots sort of escapade, which would probably work better in say, an activity book, rather than a movie. The accompanying visual style also does little in the way of bumping up the picture’s overall quality, possessing that direct-to-DVD aesthetic opposed to a cinematic look.

‘Well, it is just a kid’s film’ one could argue. Sure, but I think kids, and their guardians in tow, deserve better entertainment if they’re paying good money for it. Wouldn’t you love to introduce someone to a classic character in a new movie that could become a favorite? I know I certainly would.

I was undoubtedly more than happy to spread the love in regards to the recent Winnie the Pooh (2011) feature, which in my opinion, is one of the most criminally under-seen animated gems of the last few years.

Nutsy realizes the movie could’ve been resolved faster.
Nutsy realizes the movie could’ve been resolved faster.

But I digress. So what does work in this Blinky Bill flick? The highlight of the voice ensemble is Robin McLeavy, The Loved Ones (2009), who plays Nutsy, enhancing the koala in all her cuteness and occasional cheekiness, whilst staying quite true to the heart of the character and even my own memories from the animated TV series The Adventures of Blinky Bill, which aired in the ‘90s. Richard Roxburgh, Moulin Rouge! (2001), chimes in with a warm presence as a decent Bill (Blinky’s dad), while David Wenham, Van Helsing (2004), is fun as Jacko the lizard; to be honest, even Ryan Kwanten, Not Suitable for Children (2012), isn’t too bad as the titular koala, but his performance lacks differentiation between similar wide-eyed, excitable animated animals.

Overall, kids will likely be distracted enough while watching, but the question I leave you with is — ‘Will they choose this movie above the smorgasbord of others?’

2 / 5 – Average

Reviewed by Steve Ramsie

Blinky Bill the Movie is released through Studio Canal Australia