The Breaker Upperers: Less Taika, more try hard

Mel (Madeline Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) are long-time friends, business partners and love-cynics. Putting these skills to the test is easy in their day-to-day of being paid to end people’s relationships – until cracks begin to show after Mel breaks the main rule: never fuck a client.

It’s said the best parts of a film are in the trailer. This is especially true with comedies – lead with your best material, but surprise everyone with how much funnier the 90-minute affair is. With The Breaker Upperers, a chuckle-worthy trailer sags into an hour and a half of wondering what exit you need to take from the motorway to reach the contrived and puerile version of Auckland the protagonists live in.

The name Taika Waititi was splashed all over the advertising and credits for this movie. Perhaps directors Sami and van Beek thought that was enough to invest this movie with his powers for comedic timing. He might have taken Kiwiana quirk into the mainstream, but The Breaker Upperers hijacks this ride, spray paints it with a child’s drawing of Waititi’s best traits and crashes it into the front row of the cinema. Everything about it felt forced. The jokes that fell flat, the forced casual sex references, the clunky set pieces. It was like watching someone panickily reciting jokes in front of a mirror, practicing for delivery.

The movie did have some interesting things to say about the way women and sex are treated by a society obsessed with forming meaningful, lasting relationships at all costs. But in the hands of Sami and van Beek, each stereotype lampooned, and every valid point raised, is done so fired from a blunderbuss rather than a silenced pistol – subtlety and The Breaker Upperers would definitely swipe left with each other.

The pacing is uneven, the script fails to resolve the right story arcs and the biggest waste comes from the onscreen talent. Sami and believable, while van Beek is fine – but where this film really fails is in assembling an excellent cast of Kiwi actors and comedians while still managing to get absolutely nothing out of them. Aside from a surprise Jemaine Clement cameo (his chemistry with van Beek was a highlight) and a knowing performance from James Rolleston as horribly contrived and done-before Maori stereotype, they could have just cast some extras and saved the acting budget.

The Breaker Upperers has had a pretty extended run in cinemas nationwide, so it’s likely to have been seen by a lot of people now. I hope they enjoyed their romp better than I did – I certainly won’t be asking for a second date.

A comedy that tries to deliver Taika humour at the intolerable pace of a nervous class clown, The Breaker Upperers barely delivers a worthwhile chuckle. I think we should see other movies. 2.5/10.

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