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Real Macaw, The

Even after the high expectations generated from Babe and Napoleon – two friendly Australian pet comedies – the production team of The Real Macaw have a good reason to be congratulated. The screenplay by Bruce Hancock and Matthew Perry is intelligently written so that it’s accessible to all ages, Mario Andreacchio’s direction is firm but fun, the editing by Edward McQueen-Mason leaves no room for boredom and David Foreman’s cinematography shows beautiful shots of exotic locations and urban Australia. And that’s without mentioning the exquisite music composition and a bunch of finely tuned performances. Indeed, The Real Macaw is a cinematic eye opener, with enough talent attached to it to sink the Titanic.

Mac (voice of Daniel Murphy) is a squawking talking smart alec parrot. A 149 year old one, in fact, who lives with Benjamin Girdis (Jason Robards), a grandpa who is fascinated by the wonders of life. When gramps finds himself in serious debt, his grandson Sam (Jamie Croft) and Mac come to the rescue, in search of buried treasure in the Coral Islands. They are tailed every inch of the way by Dr Lance Hagan (John Waters), a ruthless academic who will do anything to get his greasy muts on the loot.

It doesn’t take a Will Hunting to figure out where the plot ends up, as there is only really one way it can give a rewarding pay off. We know that the bad guy will eventually be caught out, the parrot (sorry…macaw) will keep on squawking and the treasure will be found. What we don’t expect is the level of maturity that Andreacchio gives to his material; and as a consequence, the many family movie cliches are handled not so much as formalities but simply things that happen along the way. This gives a loose and energetic feel to the film as it moves swiftly, freely and amusingly along its parrot perch of finely tuned comic capers.

Jason Robards is charming to watch, and he fulfils the requirements of his role with a wonderful amount of vibrant talent that so obviously comes from many years’ experience. Jamie Croft also does a good job in his very demanding role, reacting to his winged buddy’s actions with appropriate comedy mannerisms. Mac was played by Tango the parrot with three stunt doubles – Tango, Harpo, Groucho and Chico. Together, Mac looks beautiful as a blue and gold macaw parrot, and often kept me staring at him when I should have been taking more notice of the human characters. But compared to Mac, they’re a pretty lifeless bunch.

Whilst it is refreshing to see an original and very worthwhile buddy adventure, it’s also refreshing to see a real family flick. The Real Macaw shows kids strong family values, but thankfully avoids preaching about them. It’s a real charmer of a film, a surprising bundle of rich, lavish cinema…and a whole lot of fun. Here’s to the production team who gave us it all.

Suitable: all children

Australia, 1999
92mins.

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