Thursday, December 5, 2013

We Can Be Heroes: Special Edition DVD Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
Chris Lilley, Australia's critically acclaimed comedian/actor/writer, is at it again! Recipient of an American Film Institute Award for Best Comedy Series and Best Performance in a Television Comedy for his earlier comedy series, Summer Heights High, Lilley amps up his acutely-observed, character-based comedy stylings in the groundbreaking mockumentary We Can Be Heroes, which follows the daily lives of five very special individuals who are among the thousands of citizens vying for the prestigious title of "Australian of the Year." As portrayed by Lilley, the five nominees are from different parts of the country and represent the full spectrum of the country's society. We Can Be Heroes on DVD has over two hours of extra content including deleted scenes, outtakes, a behind-the scenes featurette and "Ricky at the Logies" feature.

Show (2 out of 5 stars)

We Can Be Heroes is an interesting look at what is a real thing in Australia. It parodies the process and brings attention to an event that people outside of Australia or who are not Australian would know about. Chris Lilley is a good actor, who clearly can take on many different roles in the same show. It actually took me a couple minutes to realize each of the main characters were portrayed by Lilley. Due to the unusual format of this show thanks to Lilley's one man performance for each of the roles, I've broken it down by each episode and detailed each character's appearance.

Episode 1 – The narrator gives an introduction to what Australian of the Year is and what the documentary is about. Episode one begins with each nominee and why he or she was nominated:

Phil Olivetti, Brisbane, Melbourne – former police officer. Nominated himself for Australian of the Year. On a windy day, he was lifted into the air while rescuing some children from an inflatable castle. He has now quit his job and wants to become a motivational speaker, author and entrepreneur. He has tshirts, coffee cups and has written a book called One Man’s Castle: A Story of Bravery that he is trying to get published.

23 year old physics student, Ricky Wong, Melbourne University – Achieved world-wide acclaim in solar energy. Has developed a high efficiency solar panel that could revolutionize the energy industry. He is a joker. Makes a lot of jokes about science. He’s a gifted child. Plays piano and Suzuki violin. Accelerated through school and graduated with honors in physics. Belongs to a Chinese musical theater group. Played Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz. Gets the crazy roles because he’s the “crazy guy.”

Ja’mie King, New South Wales – Ja’mie (Jah-may) is a 16-year-old girl who attends Sydney’s Hillford Girls Grammar. When discussing her, he friends say she is “good at everything.” Ja’mie is very self involved and thinks she’s super hot and people are jealous of her. Works with Global Vision, which is a Feed the Children-like nonprofit. Nominated by her principal for sponsoring 85 starving children and has the national record. Ja’mie has photos of all the kids on her bedroom walls and doesn’t know their names, so she makes up names for them.

Daniel Sims, Dunt, South Australia – Since his father died, Daniel has on the responsibility of running the farm and is one of five kids. Daniel has a twin named Nathan, who is hearing impaired. Nathan lost his hearing after playing with a homemade explosive device. Daniel was nominated by the town because he is donating an ear drum to Nathan so he can hear again. This is a world’s-first operation.

Pat Mullins, Perth, Western Australia – Pat has been married to Terry for 25 years and has two sons. One of her legs is longer than the other so she wears one platform shoe to compensate for the difference. Pat is super athlete in Rolling who has set a world record. Pat was nominated by her friends for her pioneering spirit and her contribution to the sport of rolling. Pat has decided to be the first woman to roll from Perth to Uluru (the big rock).

Episode 2: The second episode continues following each nominee as they live their lives.

Phil – Phil says that because of his injuries, he can no longer work. He can’t hold a gun, or a radar gun or anything that requires wrist strength. He’s received a settlement from the bounce house company and is using much of it to buy toys. Say that now that he can’t work, he’s working from home, while his wife goes to work. Phil spends time with his kids playing games, and show that there’s no impairment and he could be fit for duty.

Ricky – Ricky’s parents say that his schooling and his degree is a top honor in a Chinese family and they are very proud. Ricky’s educational career is closely guarded by his father and he will get his PhD. While his father speaks, Ricky makes bunny ears behind him and his father gets angry. Ricky admits he likes the theater group more and acting is his true passion. He’s auditioning for the new musical, written by a girl in the acting group about the Aborigines. His audition is a speech by Wolverine from X-Men.

Ja’mie – Ja’mie is a typical 16 year old girl who is looking for validation everywhere. She makes everything about her and makes her friends say nice things about her.

Pat – Completed a marathon roll from Perth to Freemantle and is beginning training for a roll from Perth to Ularoo. She and Terry like to play board games, but no video games because it makes kids violent. Pat made up her own game where she just stares at Terry until he cracks. When she began training for the roll, Pat chose Terry who quit his job to coach full time.

Daniel – Daniel thinks the family’s piece of crap car is awesome and the stickers he puts on it increases its value. On his way to hang out with his friends, he drops his mother off at the site where his father died. He and his friends hang out near the railroad tracks. Daniel’s nomination has impressed his friends.

Episode 3: The documentary continues following each nominee as they live their lives.

Phil – Phil is excited for his first speaking engagement at his son’s girl and boy scout meeting. After being introduced by his son, Phil reads his speech right from the cards. Phil asks the kids who would know what to do in every situation and what rescue techniques they would use.

Ja’mie – Ja’mie receives a letter from Sonali, one of her sponsor kids. Sonali has fled Somalia and has arrived in Australia. She’s being held at the detention center and wants Ja’mie to come visit. Ja’mie tells her friends she’s not going. The principal convinces her to go by telling her she will be in the school magazine and will make a presentation about her visit. Once it’s about her, Ja’mie is happy to go because she will be in the spotlight.

Ricky – Ricky attends rehearsals for the new musical. He talks about the preparations and research it is taking to get his interpretation of the Aborigines accurate. His professor is concerned because he has dropped the ball on his classes and missed an important deadline.

Daniel – Daniel is showing family photos. He talks about how he communicates with Nathan by using color-coded cards to get Nathan to do what he wants.

Pat – Pat and Terry begin prepping for her roll to Uluru. Terry built a training course in the backyard, complete with a rain feature.

Episode 4:

Ja’mie – Ja’mie is ready for the assembly for her and her presentation. She and her friends do a lip sync dance as an introduction, then she talks about her visit to the detention center.

Phil – Phil finds out his wife works with a member of the selection committee and invites he and his wife over for lunch. Phil thinks that impressing the committee will help sway the decision in his favor. 

Daniel – Daniel and Nathan return home from the surgery. Daniel is getting used to only having one ear drum and because Nathan hasn’t thanked him, feels his brother is ungrateful.

Pat – Pat is concerned about dingoes while rolling, and she and Terry are trying to figure out how to deal with it.

Ricky – Ricky and the theater group are two weeks out from show time and much of the details have been changed to appease the Aborigines in another department. Ricky wants to tell his family he wants to be an actor.

Episode 5: The finalists for each state are chosen and receive phone calls.

Phil – Set aside the day to wait for the phone call. Killing time, Phil keeps checking his phone lines.

Ja’mie –During class, Ja’mie is called to the office and receives some bad news about her village in Sudan and she has lost her sponsor children. Ja’mie is more concerned about losing the Australian of the Year award than the children. Once she arrives home, she calls and yells at Global Vision, telling them she wants 100 new kids by next week.

Ricky – After being forbidden by his father to perform, Ricky is giving his last performance. His family is in the audience along with an Aboriginal elder.

Pat – Pat and Terry are leaving in the morning for Uluru and says they will be back in time for the finals in Canberra. They prep the house for departure by recording their voices, putting the lights on timers and locking the safe.

Daniel – Nathan and Daniel’s surgery was a success and Nathan keeps making people make noise so he can hear it. Daniel is feeling overwhelmed and doesn’t want to go to the finals in Canberra.

Episode 6: The finalists have arrived in Canberra for Australian of the year.

Ja’mie – Ja’mie brings Sonali along to Canberra.

Daniel – Daniel talks about what happens if he wins and notices Ja’mie. He says he has to meet her.

Phil – When Phil and his family arrive, he is not on the list and says he didn’t receive an invitation, only a phone call. Phil tells his wife it’s a mistake and it will get straightened out.

Pat – Pat is excitedly pointing out celebrities to Terry.

Ricky – Ricky is excitedly talking to Kathy Freeman, who was profiled in the musical.

None of the nominees make the finals. The cameras perform exit interviews with each finalist. After three months, the cameras follow up with each nominee on the day the Australian of the Year is announced.

Video (4 out of 5)

This 1080p transfer itself looks very good especially considering that the show was filmed as a documentary on the fly.  Of course, because of that the camera angles are shaky, but the colors and skin tones look very natural. It really felt like I was watching a documentary and not a television show trying to be a documentary.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

The audio for We Can Be Heroes is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0, with subtitles in English, French and Spanish. Sounds are crisp and clear and follow the documentary format. There is some wind in one of the interviews, but it’s natural and makes the whole interview more believable. When characters yell, cry or whisper, it’s not overwhelming and I didn’t need to adjust my volume at all.

Extras (3 out of 5 stars)

The extras are pretty good and there's a ton of deleted scenes included in this set as well as the usual behind the scenes looks.
  • Deleted Scenes and Outtakes – Two hours of deleted scenes and outtakes broken down by each character. Available individually or by a “play all” option. In my opinion, none of which brought anything additional to the show, and were good choices to cut.
  • Behind the Scenes – A behind-the-scenes look at the show and the work that went into it. Also broken down by each character.
  • Extended Episodes – Longer versions of the episodes.
  • Ricky at the Logies – Ricky and the Chinese Musical Theater perform Indigeridoo at the Logie Awards, which are Australias’s cross between the Golden Globes and the Emmy Awards. This was actually pretty funny, since it included Kathy Freeman, the Aboriginal woman who won gold for Australia in the Olympics.

Summary (3 out of 5 stars)

While this particular show is not for me, I am sure people who are fans of Lilley’s would enjoy it. The funniest part of the show to me was the performance of Indigeroo at the Logies, which was in the special features.

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