Feb 27, 2019
Here’s the third Netflix Original film for this post-Oscars week, once again from yours truly. It’s our first film that’s exclusively from the New Zealand film scene for the podcast, although not the first New Zealand film I’ve seen. I should probably have had Shane Hyde do this review, come to think of it. Maybe he would have liked it more. For a few other Netflix Original comedies in the same vein, check out “The Polka King” (Episode #013), “A Futile & Stupid Gesture” (Episode #027), “When We First Met” (Episode #047), “Game Over, Man!” (Episode #089), “Dude” (Episode #111), “Ibiza” (Episode #146), “Maktub” (Episode #170), and “The Package” (Episode #226). And if you have any suggestions from New Zealand, let us know over social media.
Here we go!
Today’s movie is “The Breaker Upperers” (2018), the Netflix Original New Zealand comedy written and directed by Madeleine Sami and Jackie Van Beek. The film follows Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie Van Beek) who operate a professional service used to break up with someone. After getting involved too deeply with two cases, their friendship is pushed to its limits, before doing what’s necessary to set things right.
Sketch comedy seems to be hit or miss for me. On the one hand, I have died laughing watching “Broad City” or “Snuff Box” or “Key & Peele”, but on the other hand, I have also shrugged my way through quite a few shows. And during the golden age of sketch comedy, “In Living Color” and “SNL” birthed any number of spinoff silver screen movies based on their top sketches, including “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”, “The Ladies Man”, and nearly every film made by Adam Sandler. “The Breaker Upperers” has all the classic trappings of silver screen sketch comedy, including over-the-top characters, recurring gags, edge-pushing content, all with a New Zealand twist, and all backed by Taika Waititi’s Piki Films. And while I have mixed opinions, the film hit more than it missed.
The parts that hit really did hit, but only because I’m in my early forties and can remember a lot of the references from my childhood and adolescence, particularly the music choices, which seem well out of date for the other characters in the story, and is a somewhat recurring gag in the dialogue. The one-off breakup scenes were also pretty hilarious, including the follow-up interviews. I even loved Sepa (Ana Scotney) and her ever-present crew, who act as great supporting characters, especially in the culminating scene involving an old favorite song of mine.
The flip side, of course, is that the parts that missed for me also really missed. I’m willing to admit that maybe I’m not very good at New Zealand comedy outside of Taika Waititi’s output, nor am I really familiar with either Sami or Van Beek. For me, the two seemed to lack the chemistry needed for an on-screen duo during some key scenes, working much better when their friendship is strong rather when it becomes strained. I also found the plot to be overly ridiculous, to the point where their reasons for their extended involvement in their former clients feels forced as a plot device. The film seems to be hitting well with others, but unfortunately, not with me.
“The Breaker Upperers” is a Netflix Original New Zealand comedy from the minds of Madeleine Sami and Jackie Van Beek. It has a fun premise that will either hit or miss with the viewer, depending on their tolerance for or love of sketch comedy. Sketch comedy fans, or fans of New Zealand comedy, should definitely check out this film, even if just for a few chuckles, and hopefully it hits better with you.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
One Movie Punch: 6.8/10
“The Breaker Upperers” (2018) is rated TV-MAand is currently streaming on Netflix.