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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

WHERE does Muriel’s Wed­ding rank among our best-loved Aus­tralian film come­dies? Ob­vi­ously, Croc­o­dile Dundee is hard to toss and, in more re­cent times, The Cas­tle con­nected to its au­di­ence in ways ev­ery film­maker de­sires.

But PJ Ho­gan’s tale of a young ABBA fan dream­ing of a bet­ter life than her sub­ur­ban malaise in Por­poise Spit hit the mark.

It in­tro­duced some won­der­ful, en­dur­ing ac­tors to us in­clud­ing, of course, leads Toni Col­lette and Rachel Grif­fiths, but also stars such as Dan Wyl­lie and Matt Day. And it gave us mo­ments and lines that en­tered our con­scious­ness, in­clud­ing, most ob­vi­ously, ‘‘You’re ter­ri­ble, Muriel.’’ Yes, ad­mit it, you’ve said it.

Con­se­quently, there is some logic to Road­show re­leas­ing a 20th-an­niver­sary edi­tion of the movie.

And look­ing back to 1994, we can only mar­vel at what a burst of cin­e­matic en­ergy and cre­ativ­ity emerged about that time. In that year both Muriel’s Wed­ding and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert opened within weeks of each other; two years ear­lier, Baz Luhrmann and Cather­ine Martin an­nounced them­selves with Strictly Ball­room.

Choos­ing be­tween those three is a bit like be­ing asked to choose your favourite child (for what it’s worth, mine is . . . ac­tu­ally, bet­ter not).

Muriel’s Wed­ding is ar­guably the most ac­ces­si­ble — with both Priscilla and Ball­room cin­e­matic fan­tasias in one re­gard — with themes that con­nect. Muriel’s con­nects in more ob­vi­ous ways, from the broad quest for love and iden­tity to the minu­tiae of sub­ur­ban Aus­tralian life, as evinced by the Hes­lop fam­ily.

The film still holds up, if only be­cause it is so fa­mil­iar. The pity is the 20th-an­niver­sary edi­tion (M, Road­show, 101min, $19.99) doesn’t as­sess the rea­sons for its longevity. Per­haps the no­tion of a 20th-an­niver­sary edi­tion is ev­i­dence enough. The best we get is a ram­bling com­men­tary recorded in 1994 by the di­rec­tor, Ho­gan, and Muriel her­self, Col­lette. So this disc be­comes an ex­er­cise in nos­tal­gia, which is enough when look­ing at the smoke-stained teeth, ner­vous youth and cau­tious op­ti­mism among the cast and crew in­ter­views.

Muriel’s Wed­ding is gaudy and funny yet un­der­neath that are some painful scenes. Aus­tralia’s most pop­u­lar filmed come­dies have al­ways tended to­wards the grotesque and car­i­ca­ture, and this film is no dif­fer­ent.

Its nov­elty is in Ho­gan’s will­ing­ness to go for the darker scenes — a mix he didn’t pull off in the re­cent Men­tal, also set on the Gold Coast and star­ring Col­lette. Jeanie Dry­nan’s Betty is cru­cial to Muriel’s Wed­ding, the un­sung hero of the film; she’s so nearly a fig­ure of fun but ul­ti­mately bal­ances the rau­cous com­edy.

At a 20th an­niver­sary, we can safely de­fine whether a film is a clas­sic, even if the com­mem­o­ra­tive DVD doesn’t. Muriel’s Wed­ding is a clas­sic.

(MA15+) Dis­ney (94min, $36.95)

(M) Warner (86min, $34.95)

(M) Hop­scotch (98min, $29.99)

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