Rocket fails to take flight

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 05:00 09/03/2014
the rocket

HARD LUCK STORY: The Rocket highlights the effects of development on the lives of the ordinary citizens of Laos.

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REVIEW: Bad luck has dogged those around Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe) throughout his young life.

The surviving twin of a difficult birth, his curse strikes again when his family is forced to relocate from their ancestral Laos home by a hydroelectric project.

Insisting on taking his beloved boat over the mountain, an accident sees the vessel take the life of his mother.

Naturally their proposed new home is not what the glossy billboards promised but Ahlo manages to make friends among the shantytown's eccentric inhabitants - equally cursed orphan Kia (Loungnam Kaosainam) and her James Brown-loving Uncle Purple (Suthep Po-ngam).

However, his alliance with them leads to an pyrotechnic incident that manages to banish what remains of his own family.

Without a home or a means of supporting themselves, they seem doomed, but Ahlo is convinced he can stop them starving.

Kind of a cross between Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Gods Must Be Crazy and The Cup, Australian writer-director Kim Morduant's engaging tale (written with the help of New Zealand's own Miro Bilbrough) mixes mordant humour with knockabout comedy to sometimes jarring effect.

Disamoe is a delightful if disaster-prone guide, while Po-ngam threatens to steal the show as the nutty Uncle Purple.

Some of the other acting is variable though. Morduant does a good job of keeping viewer interest high with good use of point-of-view shots, slo-mo and the Laos landscape.

However, the authenticity which made films like The Cave of the Yellow Dog or Travellers and Magicians so endearing and entertaining is somewhat lost by a climax that seems to have borrowed its plot from a classic episode of Star Trek (1967's Arena if you simply must know).

The Rocket (M) 96 mins

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