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Samoan Wedding

28 November 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Hawaii International Film Festival

HONOLULU -- Romantic comedy gets a masculine makeover in "Samoan Wedding", a local hit from New Zealand. With strategic handling by U.S. distributor Magnolia Pictures, the film should appeal to mature urban audiences and fans of world cinema.

Guided by veteran producer John Barnett ("Whale Rider") and released domestically in March as "Sione's Wedding," it broke New Zealand's opening-weekend boxoffice record on the strength of wide multicultural appeal. Stateside, "Wedding" could make a fair showing in limited release when it expands following a Nov. 11 release in Hawaii.

Best friends and first-generation Samoan New Zealanders Albert (Oscar Kightley), Stanley Iaheto Ah Hi), Michael Robbie Magasiva) and Sefa (Shimpal Lelisi) are 30-ish former members of the Duckrockers breakdancing crew who still haven't outgrown their protracted adolescence. "The Boys" are notorious throughout their close-knit Auckland Samoan community for trashing parties and disrupting wedding receptions with their drunken antics.

To ward off any further misbehavior at his upcoming nuptials, Michael's younger brother Sione (Pua Magasiva) prompts the local minister (Nathaniel Lees) to ban the four from the event. Disbelieving at first, then desperate to attend their best boy's wedding, the guys strike a deal: If each can find a legitimate date for the ceremony, he will be admitted.

With only a month left before the big day, each faces daunting dating challenges: Hunky bike messenger Michael is popular with his selected demographic of affluent white women but can't find anyone who considers him more than just a boy toy. Albert is too shy to even get a date and blind to the affections of his cute co-worker Tania (Madeleine Sami). Party-hearty Sefa thinks he's set with girlfriend Leilani (Teuila Blakely), but she's increasingly fed up with his irresponsible behavior. Meanwhile, Stanley (aka "Tyreeq") scams short-term hookups on a phone-chat line.

When Albert's mother (Ana Tuigamala) tries setting him up with distant cousin and Polynesian beauty Princess (Maryjane McKibbin-Schwenke), Michael becomes a rival after suddenly discovering the allure of Samoan women. Meanwhile, Leilani moves out on Sefa, signaling that the Boys are headed for a world of heartache on the road to reforming their ways.

Although endearingly acted as it deploys pointed sendups of male romantic foibles, the film only occasionally hits the heights of hilarity to which it aspires. First-time feature filmmaker and music video director Chris Graham capably modulates the tone between conventional and more outrageous comedy, assuring that the film's well-meaning humor is ultimately infectious, even if some important plot points remain neglected.

Culturally specific comic performances by central members of the ensemble cast were honed in the Naked Samoans theater group, but strongly accented dialogue could dull the delivery for American viewers.

Graham brings a snappy, polished style to the picture, en-hanced by Aaron Morton's crisp widescreen cinematography and Iain Aitken's locally flavored production design. A score featuring hip-hop and soul-inflected numbers, along with a selection of traditional Polynesian songs, tunefully anchors the story in its colorful cultural milieu.


Magnolia Pictures

A South Pacific Pictures presentation in association with the New Zealand Film Commission, NZ on Air, Village SkyCity Cinemas, Joseph P. Moodabe


Director: Chris Graham

Screenwriters: James Griffin, Oscar Kightley

Producers: John Barnett, Chloe Smith

Executive producers: Paul Davis, Mark Horowitz

Director of photography: Aaron Morton

Production designer: Iain Aitken

Music: Andy Morton, Dawn Raid Entertainment

Costumes: Jane Holland

Editor: Paul Maxwell


Albert: Oscar Kightley

Stanley: Iaheto Ah Hi

Sefa: Shimpal Lelisi

Michael: Robbie Magasiva

Sione: Pua Magasiva

Leilani: Teuila Blakely

Tania: Madeleine Sami

Princess: Maryjane McKibbin-Schwenke

Albert's Mom: Ana Tuigamala

Minister: Nathaniel Lees

Running time -- 97 minutes

No MPAA rating


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