The Honourable Wally Norman
Cast and Crew:
Kevin Harrington as Wally Norman
Alan Cassel as Willy Norman
Shaun Micallef as Ken Oats
Rosalind Hammond as Dolly Norman
Nathaniel Davinson as Myles Greenstreet
H.G. Nelson as the Chairman
Octavia Barron-Martin as Laurie Norman
Tom Budge as Normie Norman
Bryan Dawe as Richard Nicholls
Barbara Gibbs-Line Producer
Rick Kalowski-Associate Producer
Stephen Evans-Film Editor
Ocean Pictures-Production Company
South Australian Film Corporation-Production offices
June 6th, 2003 at the Sydney Film Festival
November 13th, 2003 for all of Australia
Runtime: 88 minutes
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital Certification: Australia: M (DVD rating) / Australia: PG
Budget and Box Office Figures:
Budgeted AU$3.5 million (http://www.abc.net.au/rural/qld/stories/s979510.htm)
Locations of Shooting:
Awards and Recognition:
- Opening Night Selection at Sydney Film Festival 2003
- Official Selection at Melbourne International Film Festival 2003
- Kevin Harrington- Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Australian Film Institute
- “Back Home to You” song- Nominated for Best Original Song Composed for a Feature Film, Telemovie, TV Series or Mini-Series by John Bartholomeusz and Colin Swan, Australia Screen Music Awards
- Special appearance in the film by Prime Minister Mike Rann
1. The Laws of Comedy- Jo Litson
2. Impact Internet Services
The Honourable Wally Norman DVD Behind the Scenes interviews
Throughout the behind the scenes interviews the director, writers and producer were each interviewed for their opinion of the film. In summary, they created the film to appeal to the Australian audience and reach out to the Australians living in rural towns. Each of the mentioned individuals stressed the excellent relationship that they had created with each of the actors. It was also commented by both writers that Ted Emery, the director, “gives the comedic moments a visual aspect that you don’t get in a screenplay.” The two writers, Jones and Kalowski, also discussed that the casting Shaun Micallef as Ken Oats was exactly what they had envisioned for that part. Furthermore, Jones and Kalowski who were grade school friends and now lawyers created the idea for the film from a political constitutional statement about not being able to change the name of a political party’s candidate.
Reviews of film:
1. Wally Norman writers hit the campaign trail-Inside Film
2. Sydney Film Festival 50th Anniversary Program launched-Inside Film
3. The Honourable Wally Norman-Cinephilia
4. An Honourable Wally- Workers Online
5. The Honourable Wally Norman- Efilm critic
“If the 50th Sydney Film Festival were a restaurant, The Honourable Wally Norman would be a meat pie and chips, smothered in tomato sauce, and served with a cob of corn on the side.”
6. The Honourable Wally Norman- The Urban Cine File
7. The Honourable Wally Norman-Lawrie Zion
8. The Honourable Wally Norman-Alexa Moses
Film’s On-line presence:
Prior to the release of The Honourable Wally Norman, it appeared that there was a significant amount of build up for its release. It was the feature film at the Sydney film festival in 2003, where it was first released, which caused a great amount of excitement previous to the actual release. This resulted in a large amount of press previous to the release. After the general public release a few months after the premiere in Sydney, there were multiple articles posted to critique the film, most of which were negative. It was relatively easy to find these types of critiques and reviews of the film after the release. However, there was a significant amount of difficulty in finding interviews with the film makers or any of the cast from the movie. A majority of the cast is well known for other comedic venues and the script writers are both new to the movie scene therefore little press was actually contributed to the individuals themselves. Also, since the movie was seemingly unsuccessful, even less press was devoted especially to the creators of the film.
Review of the film:
The Honourable Wally Norman is a film that provides motivation to underdogs everywhere. When Wally Norman, a meat worker, is mistakenly put on the ballot for Parliament, his trials and tribulations throughout his campaign are exploited by an underhanded scandal with the other political party. However, in order to save his meat packing plant from closure, Wally must win the election his way, despite the obstacles in his path.
The town of Givens Head has never seen so much excitement until now. Givens Head, “a town built on meat”, is a small rural town in southern Australia. Givens Head is home to the Norman family and although small, has a significant strong hold on the upcoming parliament election. The Honourable Wally Norman begins at the annual Givens Head goat race. This is where Wally Norman is first introduced. He owns the winning goat and is an all around well liked individual throughout the community. His character is depicted as the all around good guy, family man, which gets slightly overdone and at times relatively corny.
Wally works for the Givens Head meat packing plant which through a back handed scandal, is going to be shut down. Ken Oats, the parliament candidate for the Total Country Party, who is up for reelection, knows of the scandal and tries to be the good guy, using it to boost his morale within Givens Head. The Total Country Party’s opponent in the election is the Australian People’s Party (APP) who is still undecided on their nominee. Willy Norman is the front runner nominee for the APP and with the help of his apprentice, Myles Greenstreet, he was supposed to be the sure in for the nomination. However, Willy’s typical drunkenness gets them both in a mess when he mistypes Willy as Wally. There is a rule that states once the nomination form is turned in there is no possible way of substituting the nominee; therefore, Myles and Willy have to convince Wally to run for parliament. Although reluctantly, Wally agrees to run with the prime focus on saving the meat plant and the film follows him through his campaign. This segment of the film is where most of the comedy is found. Wally’s training is absolutely hysterical and the reactions from his family are even better.
Meanwhile, Willy strikes a deal with Ken Oats behind the APP’s back, agreeing to sabotage Wallys’ campaign as long as Ken resigns and gives his seat to Willy. Myles, who is romantically involved with Wally’s daughter Laurie, also gets shafted by Willy and is fired unjustly. Wally follows Willy’s every move until he begins to lose support and finally, after motivation from his wife, starts being himself and in turn, starts winning the election. Ken Oats responds by getting money from the Prime Minister to make an extremely laughable, stereotypical election campaign ad right before the debate.
At the debate, the truth about how Wally was nominated is revealed and yet he still wins the election with the help of Myles’ return. In the end, the meat packing plant remains open and Wally is elected to parliament, where he nominates Myles for parliament as his last duty in his term.
This underdog comedy is absolutely hilarious, mainly due to its ridiculous factor and satirizing of politics. Despite the reviews after its lackluster release, the light heartedness of the film is addicting. Additionally, the largely comedic cast simply adds to the comedic value of the film, making it that much more enjoyable. At times, the underlying romanticism of the Norman family can get to be a bit much however, it aids in making characters such as Ken Oats and Willy Norman look that much worse.
Prior to the release of The Honourable Wally Norman, there was a significant amount of hype built up for it. The Sydney Film Festival made it their feature film in 2003 where it was first released (Inside Film, 2003). However, after it was released to the rest of Australia, the low budget film got pushed under the mat with all the other failed comedic attempts, grossing just over $150,000. Most likely, after the huge success of The Castle, (Crofts, 2001) any attempt at a feel-good, underdog comedy in Australia is destined for failure (Zion, 2003). Even though it was an apparent flop, there were multiple reviews glorifying the cast and the comedy within it. However, the repetition of this type of Australian film is used material that apparently was used one too many times in the minds of the Australian population.
At the Sydney Film Festival in June of 2003, The Honourable Wally Norman was the feature film. It was also the official selection for the Melbourne International Film festival. Before the actual viewing of the film at these festivals, the unknown lawyers turned script writers, well known comedic director and cast were all components causing the huge buzz around the film (Inside Film, 2003). It was largely filmed in southern Australia and in Sydney with a budget of just $3.5 million. Once it premiered at the Sydney Film Festival, there was little media attention on the film due to the mixed reviews it received. There was still hope that the target audience the film makers were aiming for would give it a huge reception later that year. However, the November release created much of the same disappointment. The low budget of the film coupled with the rookie of script writers were most likely the biggest factors in the failing of the film (Zion, 2003).
A large majority of the actors and the director are extremely well known within Australian films and comedic television. Despite the script writers whose first work was The Honourable Wally Norman, Ted Emery, is an experienced comedic director. His first successful comedic film was The Craic in 1999. Unlike Wally Norman, this comedic attempt won the Australian Box office achievement award for the movie of the year and grossed over $5 million. Emery is probably now best known now for his directing of the number one Australian comedy, Kath and Kim which has been nominated for many best comedy awards (Australian Television, 2005). Beyond this, Emery was also involved with The Micallef Program with Shaun Micallef. Shaun Micallef has also appeared as various comedic characters in shows and films such as Shaun Micallef’s World Around Him, Bad Eggs and Seachange. Seachange is also where Kevin Harrington the comedian, is most well recognized from. Although Harrington has done a significant amount of work within the drama genre, he has also made appearances with Micallef on many of his programs giving him a comedic edge. Finally, the producer, Barbara Gibbs has a long list of production experience with Australian movies ranging from Babe to Serenades. The common link between most of these prominent individuals is their comedic tie, largely revolving around a strong relationship with director, Ted Emery.
The Honourable Wally Norman left a relatively insignificant mark on the film industry throughout Australia. It was in many ways a huge disappointment from the tremendous build up it received previous to its premiere. As in most Australian film, The Honourable Wally Norman was a low budget film written by unknown script writers. The small scale on which this film was produced would hurt any film and unfortunately, the seemingly strong cast was not strong enough to keep it afloat in the box office. “The danger of small films is that without the dazzling visuals and eye-popping effects big money can buy, a small film must have a sparkling, unusual script, empathetic characters or a director with a striking visual eye to make the film work on the big screen (Moses, 2003)” and in this case The Honourable Wally Norman was bland by comparison.
Through this film it is shown that it is necessary to do something out of the box for it to be successful. The Australia audience is getting bored with the same small scale, uncreative plots that continually reappear throughout cinema.
The Honourable Wally Norman is the stereotypical Australian underdog comedy. It has the good character over coming huge obstacles and the bad guys for the betterment of himself and his mates. The Australian comedy is also aided in its comedic value through the presence of well known comedic actors from television shows. “The comedians in comedy are privileged figures, able to step outside and to play with the rules governing most narrative films (Neale, 2000)” and without these impromptu abilities, the film itself would lose the wittiness that is necessary to be considered a comedy. The principal actors of Shaun Micallef and Kevin Harrington add a huge amount of humor to the film just by being well recognized as comedic individuals.
Furthermore, the plot also plays a huge role in making the comedy laughable. The plot creates various odd or cosmic events for the characters to act upon and react to throughout the film (Neale, 2000). When Willy and Myles get drunk and type the wrong name for the nomination, Wally and everyone within the town of Givens Head are forced to react to this blunder. It creates the main irony that is essential for the comedic value of the film. Additionally, the incongruity of the many characters and events allow for Wally Norman to fit into the comedic genre (Vandaele, 2002). As seen in the film, there are often moments or objects that don’t seem to fit into what most would consider normal such as the goat race in the beginning of Wally Norman.
Typically, a comedy also pokes fun at a certain aspect of real life and satirizes it. In The Honourable Wally Norman, the whole film is centered on satirizing corrupt politics. This is largely displayed through Ken Oats and Willy Norman characters. Throughout Wally’s training, Willy preaches to not tell the truth and to be extremely manipulative. He goes through all the steps of kissing babies and shaking hands, basically mind washing Wally of normal actions which is seemingly what every day politics revolves around. Additionally, when Ken Oats creates his ad campaign it is priceless in terms of political satire, including the stereotypical war veteran uniform and minority group relations. Without the satire that is created throughout the film, Wally Norman could not be classified as a comedy. It would lose the laughable quality which is the primary aim for all types of comedies.
However, underneath all of the satire, there is always an underlying happy ending, especially in the underdog sub genre of comedies. Despite the truth being revealed, Wally still wins the election, creating a very heart felt triumph for the underdog. The prevailing of the underdog creates a certain amount of pride within Australian cinema because these films act as a metaphor for Australian cinema itself. The Australian film industry is significantly smaller than that of Hollywood and constantly struggles to be successful. Therefore, within these films, the underlying underdog theme can represent the struggles that Australia cinema faces regularly in a comedic way. The characters understand that they are the underdog but with enough luck and odd happenings, one day they are victorious, creating a happy ending, which is what Australia cinema hopes to accomplish as well.
Australian underdog comedies have all of the facets needed to be successful and have a strong comedic value. The plot, characters and quirkiness of the comedy are each essential to making the audience laugh, which is the main goal of any comedy. The Honourable Wally Norman combines the satire with the comedic actors and at times, an incomprehensible and quirky plot which allow it to be categorized as an underdog comedy. Australian films such as The Honourable Wally Norman epitomize Australia’s constant struggle with large scale cinema success and possibly one day, they will be able to overcome the obstacles and win the election, just as Wally did in Givens Head.
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The Honourable Wally Norman, 2003, Ted Emery