Sione's 2: 'A love letter to women'
Like New Zealand's previously most famous cinematic sequel, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, Sione's 2: Unfinished Business rejoins the action years after the original.
It's five years since Sione got married and the Duckrocking quartet landed their ladyfriends and life has started to get in the way of their friendships.
Sefa (Shimpal Lelisi) has a faultering business and has still failed to pop the question to long-suffering girlfriend Lani (Teuila Blakely), Michael (Robbie Magasiva) has taken his lothorio act acrosss the Tasman, Stanley (Iaheto Ah Hi) is following his calling to be a trainee assitant deacon and Albert (Oscar Kightley) might have got the girl, Tania (Madeline Sami), and the job (as a claims adjustor) but he's had to trade in Grey Lynn for Glenfield - a suburb he bemoans as boasting "nothing but furniture stores".
Reunited by circumstance, the foursome are once again tasked by their Minister (Nathaniel Lees) with another mission.
But finding one Samoan in one night in the biggest polynesian city in the world is not an easy task, especially when the boys are having trouble reconnecting with one another. Naturally enough, their first port of call on their search is their local...
One of New Zealand's most popular comedies, 2006's Sione's Wedding successfully captured the unique Polynesian humour of the Naked Samoans. With its recognisable characters, quotable dialogue and irrepressible feel-good factor, the film still charms even after repeat viewings. And it was always been a hard act to follow.
To their credit, writers Kightley and James Griffin do a much better job of riffing on the original format than The Hangover team managed last year. Throwing in some immediate curveballs that may leave some audience members a little bemused, the pair build nicely (but perhaps a little slowly) towards a hilarious bar-set climax.
Modelled on Star Trek 3 (complete with its own form of "klingons"), the story involves a copy of Wuthering Heights, a Maori Hamburger joint, a strip club and a ladies' toilet block. Despite being a blokey film, this is a love letter to women, with the only missteps a poorly sketched Brian Tamaki-esque preacher (Kirk Torrance) and a couple of Trans-Tasman characters that would be more at home on Underbelly.
Director Simon Bennett (Outrageous Fortune) delivers a solid product with visuals capturing Auckland's vibrancy and milking the comedic value of slo-mo running and flashbacks for all their worth. And in keeping with the slightly more grown up feel of the film, Dawn Raid's typically brash lyrics and music are now intertwined with the more restrained work of Don McGlashan (No. 2).
Perhaps more bittersweet than Wedding fans might have expected, Unfinished Business is still an engaging comedy filled with memorable characters who, to paraphrase one of them, "make us proud to be ashamed of them".
* See Saturday's Press for more film reviews