There’s something completely charming about one of the directors
of the TV series Top Gear taking the
experiences they learned on the series and applying it to a kids film. One
would think the logical move would be to make a Fast and Furious-esque film, full of fast cars and action, but not
for director Owen Trevor. With writer Steve Worland, Trevor takes the high-octane
high-thrills excitement of Top Gear
and applies it to the world of go karting, letting a group of kids go wild,
allowing them to have similar kinds of fun that the adults of Top Gear would, all making the bulk of Go! a fun and enjoyable family flick.
Jack (William Lodder) and his mum, Christie (Frances O’Connor),
have made the move to South West Western Australia (left nameless in the film,
but is played by tourist town Busselton), seeking a new life and the death of
Jack’s father (Adam T Perkins). Jack and his dad had a strong connection with
each other thanks to cars and racing, so it’s natural that Jack gravitates
towards the local go karting track and finds comfort in the speed and thrills that
that kind of racing affords.
The track he drives at is owned and operated by the
curmudgeonly hermit Patrick (Richard Roxburgh), and as Jack recognises his own
talent, he aims to make a mentor out of Patrick. But, due to an incident in
Patrick’s past, he’s reluctant to guide Jack to success. Thankfully, with persistence
and gumption, Jack and his new friends, Mandy (Anastasia Bampos) and Colin (Darius
Amarfio Jefferson), they’re able to build their own go kart and train and guide
Jack on the path to success.
All the while, as this is a sports film through and through,
Jack has a nemesis: Mandy’s brother Dean (Cooper van Grootel). In this world,
go karting is a major deal, and Mandy and Dean’s family – the Zeta’s – own and
operate the biggest go karting team in Australia. Dean is a less than stellar
driver, but because he’s the dude in the family, he gets to drive the karts,
all the while Mandy has the skills and know how, understanding the body and
soul of the go kart intimately, and as she’s a girl, she’s relegated to
cheering from the sidelines.
There’s a lot of gears operating in this quite entertaining
film, with Steve Worland’s script adding a nice skewed perspective to a very
well-worn motif. As with Worland’s previous script, Paper Planes, there’s a depth and level of humanity present that
would usually be shied away from in a kids film. In Paper Planes, it was Sam Worthington’s father with depression, and
here it’s the struggles that Mandy goes through to be taken seriously in a male
dominated industry. Sure, like Paper
Planes, Go! still operates within
the genre trappings, with the hero overcoming an obstacle to triumph over all,
but it’s how the journey gets there.
First up, the casting is absolutely spot on. Richard Roxburgh is an expected treat, and it’s clear that you can tell he’s absolutely relishing every single moment on screen. It’s been a joy to see his work in two great Aussie kids films, with some outstanding work in Go! and H is for Happiness. But we have grown to expect great supporting turns from the adults in kids films, which is why it’s a genuine joy to see the core cast of William Lodder, Anastasia Bampos, and Darius Amarfio Jefferson, work so well together.
There’s a welcome friendly chemistry between the three, and
you can easily see Go! being the
foundation of a lifelong friendship between the actors. Lodder is great as the
lead, but it’s Anastasia who impresses the most, commanding the screen and
showing a great level of confidence. As far as star making roles go, this is a
pretty solid one, and after this, you can guarantee that she’ll be a name you’ll
hear more of. The same equally applies to Darius, who takes on the Julian
Dennison in Paper Planes support role
here, and provides great comedic timing, making Colin a great friend to Jack.
The go karting scenes are vibrant and thrilling, with Owen
Trevor sticking you right in the race, making you feel every bump on the track
and every close call between other drivers. The relationship between Jack and
his mum is sweet, with Jack working with the local cop (an always welcome Dan
Wyllie) to get his mum out on a date.
Elsewhere, the relationship between Jack and his dad is built
up with a video game meme that I’m surprised hasn’t been implemented in a film
sooner. See, when Jack’s dad was alive, they used to play a racing game
together, and every night, Jack races against his dad’s car ‘ghost’ in the game,
never beating the car because to do so would mean he’d lose that experience
with his dad. You’ve likely seen the meme online, and while I initially cringed
at its inclusion here, it carries some welcome emotional heft near the end.
There’s a lot to like about Go!, with a nice story elevated by great performances, some thrilling racing scenes, all paired with the exceptional visuals of Busselton making the film come to life. A shot of the kids racing along the long Busselton jetty is particularly memorable. There’s been a curious rise of Aussie kids films focused around sports – Rip Tide, Back of the Net, and now Go! – and they’ve all been family friendly, crowd pleasing films. You’ll walk out smiling, having had a good time, and really, that’s sometimes just enough.
Lodder, Anastasia Bampos, Darius Amarfio Jefferson
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