'Brand New Day,' or 'Bran Nue Dae,' had promise. Based on a stage play of the same name, 'Brand New Day' tells the story of a young aboriginal boy named Willie (Rocky McKenzie) as he struggles to find himself amidst the tumultuous times in which he lives. The British have colonized Australia and have taken it upon themselves to Christianize the aborigine people.
Willie is sent off to a Catholic school with a bunch of other kids. The school is run by the strict headmaster Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush). Willie, like many other kids, questions the religion he's been taught, and can't help but overlook the British occupation of his people's land.
'Brand New Day' is a musical, but its songs are unmemorable and tonally all over the place. The same could be said for the movie which switches tones time and time again without giving us any real emotional direction.
Willie runs away from the school. Father Benedictus heads out in his car to catch Willie and bring him back. What transpires is a generic road trip movies where Willie runs into an eclectic bunch of characters along his journey. A hobo named Uncle Tadpole (Ernie Dingo) joins him on his journey dispensing wisdom along the way. The two of them run into vacationing hippies Slippery (Tom Budge) and Annie (Missy Higgins), who reluctantly offer up their services to drive them back to Willie's hometown.
The entire movie feels like it might have played out better as a stage play than a movie. They haven't quite given it that cinematic feel. It almost feels as if we're watching a videotaped play. It's too corny for its own good. The story is never all that emotionally endearing, and Willie's character becomes tiresome after a while.
Many parts, like The Condom Tree scene, are explained in such a fashion that fans of the play would only be able to understand its significance. With a short 85 minute runtime the story breezes through weighty themes like colonization, religion, and adultery.
The ending is far-fetched even by stage play standards. I found myself rolling my eyes when all was revealed. Although, to me it didn't matter in the first place since I rarely found myself caring about any character on screen. Geoffrey Rush is good as always, but he's given a limited amount of screen time. Most of the runtime is devoted to Willie and his uninteresting journey to find himself.
'Brand New Day' never grabbed me like other coming-of-age stories have. It felt redundant, like a color-by-numbers journey movie where the main character goes on a personal quest, meets a few strange people who teach him valuable lessons and at the end he's all the better for it. The songs seemed forced, although the very first song sung in the movie is hilariously irreverent and caught me totally off-guard. Perhaps if the movie hade followed more along the lines of that irreverent song, then it would have been slightly more interesting.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Brand New Day' is a 20th Century Fox release. It comes to Blu-ray on a 25-GB Blu-ray disc, has a Region A coding, and is housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.
Wow, I was simply impressed by 'Brand New Day's video presentation. The contrast is pumped up just a little to give colors even more of a pop. But, the visuals do seem to portray what it would be like standing in the hot Australian sun.
The 1080p picture is clear and full of detail. You're able to make out any sort of blemish or imperfection on people's faces. The amount of facial detail here is simply astounding. From Rush's sunburnt furrowed brow, to the tiny marks and bumps on Willie's face, this video presentation is all encompassing. Colors seem to be boosted just a tad. The reddish brown Australian dirt leaps off the screen. Skin tones are always natural. Clothing is rich and colorful. Blacks offer depth and dimensionality to the picture. Shadows are never crushing. Noise is absent. Technical anomalies are nowhere to be found.
I may not have been impressed by the movie itself, but I was very impressed by its visual presentation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a little underwhelming, especially for a musical. I never felt like I was engulfed by the sound. Even when characters broke out in song and dance, it seemed like most of the music and dancing was centered in the front. Some music bled around to the rears, but it wasn't enough to really provide a worthwhile ambient feel.
Dialogue was always clear and concise though. There's a few instances where whispers are a little too hushed and hard to hear, but on the whole I heard just about every word spoken. LFE is light, since most of the songs are breezy numbers with plenty of brass and guitar accompaniment. Directionality worked well during dialogue-centric scenes, and as bullets whiz by the van Willie is driving in.
All in all, it's a serviceable audio presentation, but I expected more from a boisterous musical like this.
There are no special features included.
If you're into modern day musicals, my advice would be to stick to 'Mamma Mia ' or 'Hairspray.' At least they have specific tones and don't feel nearly as muddled as 'Brand New Day.' Although, if you're a die-hard musical fan you may want to check it out to see if it strikes your fancy. The video presentation looks great, the audio leaves a little to be desired. For fans only.