The Nugget (2002) Movie Review

The Australian comedy “The Nugget” will probably be most notable for starring Eric Bana, who was in last year’s “Blackhawk Down” and is the star of the upcoming “The Hulk”. Bana stars as Lotto, one of three tight knit friends who, while out prospecting in the hills, discover a large gold nugget in the ground. But as it turns out, finding the nugget was the easy part; it’s keeping their friendship in one piece that’s hard.

The other two members of the trio is Stephen Curry as Wookie, nicknamed because he once thought he saw a Wookie from the “Star Wars” films hiding in his backyard. And oh yeah, Wookie is also addicted to tabloid newspapers. The last member is Sue (Dave O’Neil), a lazy, overweight man who once found a finger buried in one of his pies. Lotto himself is the unluckiest man alive, and even when he finally wins the jackpot via a scratch off ticket, he immediately loses that ticket. With these 3 blue-collar chumps, who thinks every problem can be solve with a trip to the beer cooler, keeping the nugget safe is the least of their problems.

All in all, “The Nugget” is a worthwhile comedy, with a steady stream of chuckles. There’s never any laugh out loud moments, but the movie is amusing enough from start to finish that you never notice it’s not that funny. Also, don’t bother with the cautionary tale, which writer/director Bill Bennett tries to insert into the preceding every now and then. The movie is all fluff, and fortunately it does fluff very well, which is really all one can ask for.

While reading on the net about “The Nugget”, I got the feeling that this is what the Australians do very well — that is, personable little quirky comedies. Another Australian comedy, “The Dish”, works in much the same vein. They’re both very breezy, with characters that are broadly written, and the comedy, although very much present, never overwhelms. “The Nugget” is not like “Kung Pow”, which had me literally rolling on the floor trying not to die laughing. It’s funny, but it’s not that funny — if that makes any sense at all.

I also liked the little quirks writer/director Bennett gives his characters. Aside from Lotto’s general bad luck (horses he bets on doesn’t just lose, they end up dead), there’s Sue’s marriage to Moon Choo (Karen Pang), a smart doctor from Hong Kong who ends up a bored housewife in Australia. Wookie’s wife Darlene (Sallyanne Ryan) also proves to be a greedy she-devil, while Lotto’s wife Cheryl (Belinda Emmett) obsesses about getting a facial and smelling that “new car smell”.

Peter Moon, as the sleazy villain Ratner, is very endearing even if his character looks like a human version of a rat. The character is just so deliciously deceitful (not to mention cruel to dogs) that he brightens up the screen whenever he shows up. Vince Colosimo also shares the villain role as Dimitri, an East European immigrant who runs the town’s only brothel/masseuse parlor. Dimitri teams up with Ratner to steal the gold from the 3 friends, but ends up at each other’s throats by movie’s end.

“The Nugget” is a very worthwhile trip. The thick Australian accents are sometimes hard to understand, mostly because I’ve never been treated to this much foreign slang in so short a time. It’s a little odd to realize that they’re speaking English; only it’s a type of English that you’re not used to. But for the most part, “The Nugget” was a good time. It is, in a nutshell, lighthearted comedy done right.

Bill Bennett (director) / Bill Bennett (screenplay)
CAST: Eric Bana …. Lotto
Stephen Curry …. Wookie
Dave O’Neil …. Sue
Belinda Emmett …. Cheryl
Peter Moon …. Ratner

Buy The Nugget on DVD