Fox // 2002 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // September 7th, 2004
What if you finally got your big break...and you just plain sucked?
Garage Days Recipe
Mix equal parts of style of Trainspotting and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Set aside. Boil Moulin Rouge in water until color pallete becomes dissolved in water (this will dilute it enough to make it tolerable). Add style mixture to pallete water and wait until fully set. To extract the musical talent of The Commitments, grasp talent firmly and pull, careful to not leave any pieces behind. Discard musical talent. Put remainder of The Commitments into the style mixture and blend until nearly smooth. Sprinkle liberally with punk and bake until desired doneness is reached. Serve immediately with mind-altering drugs and stiff drinks.
Alternately, you can simply head to your nearest home video retailer and try Alex Proyas's version of this dish. His version is good, but seems to include a few too many flavors that never quite manage to blend together. Still, it's a fun time that many film fans won't want to pass up.
Freddie (Kick Gurrie, Spartan) is the lead singer of a small indie band in contemporary Sydney. He is joined by his girlfriend Tanya (Pia Miranda), a spunky bass player/university student; the drug and adrenaline junkie drummer Lucy (Chris Sadrinna), and the obsessive and moody guitarist Joe (Brett Stiller). Despite their nearly total lack of talent and Bruno (Russell Dykstra, Lantana), the most incompetent manager in the history of rock 'n' roll, they actually seem to be on the verge of being discovered. To ensure their failure, though, the members of the band all start cheating on each other, causing rifts between them. Will their love for the music be enough to carry them through, or will they be broken apart by their uncontrollable urges?
If nothing else, Garage Days is a very fun movie to watch. Director Alex Proyas pulls out all of the visual tricks that he did in Dark City and The Crow, then turns them up to eleven just to see what will happen. The result is a visually dynamic film that threatens to leap off the screen and fill the whole room. It has a great sound as well, with a diverse soundtrack that perfectly fits the tone of the movie. Even when not much is happening, it's certainly not bland.
Unfortunately, it's also a lot less satisfying than his previous films. It does make a few statements about live music, with local bands and live performance becoming less and less common as gambling machines and DJs become more lucrative for small venue operators. Still, that lesson gets completely lost in the jumble of zany hijinks, and is all but forgotten by the end of the film. As this is a comedy, not a documentary, I don't think that's a real problem. Still, it often feels like there's something missing on the content end of things, especially as the second half of the movie becomes quite conventional.
The performances are all excellent, especially considering the little-known cast from Australia. They all feel somewhat stereotypical, but all of the cast members bring a charisma and passion to their roles that allow them to burst out of their typical roles. While there are no real weak links, special credit goes to Freddie, whose natural charisma makes him the perfect focus of the film. He makes many mistakes, but not enough that we lose pity for him. The other band members are entertaining as well, especially Lucy with his drug journal. The other bright point is Bruno, who is brilliant as their completely incompetent manager.
Since it is such an entertaining film to watch and listen to, I am happy to report that Fox has released this DVD with a great transfer. The video transfer is rich and clean, with more richness and detail than expected for such a cheaply produced film. The black levels are good, and I didn't notice any digital flaws. The audio transfer is just as good, with plenty of action in the sub and surrounds. The soundtrack has just the right amount of punch, the sound stage is really wide, yet the voices are always clear.
The disc has also been well stocked with special features. The most important of these is the commentary track with Alex Proyas. It's much more serious in tone than the film, but he is an pleasant person to listen to and has plenty of interesting things to say. Also on the widescreen side of the disc are some outtakes and deleted scenes, which are quite funny. The other side of the disc houses a short featurette with a few brief interview spots. They obviously had a good time making the film. This side also includes some interviews, which basically amounts to the actors explaining who their characters are and saying nice things about each other. Still, they are amusing to listen to.
The biggest problem in Garage Days is the script. While the beginning of the film is a savage send-up of untalented garage bands, the decision to shift the focus away from the band and into their ridiculous love lives is a poor one. The band becomes completely unimportant as the film slowly transforms from a band comedy to a romantic comedy. I would have preferred a little less That Thing You Do and more Spinal Tap. By the end, it settles into the romantic comedy tradition quite well, but it doesn't feel like that's what it was meant to be.
Garage Days is big, bright, colorful, and fun enough to make it well worth watching. It goes by really fast and has more style than downtown Paris. Still, there just isn't any substance underneath all of that style. In that way, it's kind of like cotton candy -- only laced with LSD. Fans of rock movies or stylish comedies in general will definitely want to give it a watch, but I don't think many people will find it to be worth a purchase.
Even though it doesn't really accomplish anything, everyone in Garage Days has obviously had a lot of fun during production. That fun has extended to the viewers, so I have found it completely innocent.
Review content copyright © 2004 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* "Backstage Pass" Featurette
* Official Site