A dreadful comedy, ‘The Emu War’ is a sad, vulgar, unfunny mess with no discernible sense of style

This slide appears at the very end of ‘The Emu War’. How depressing.

THE EMU WAR nil (73 minutes) MA
In the realm of comedy there exists a cavernous gulf between silly and stupid. Blurb for The Emu War claims it is the former when – after the agony of sitting through the film – it proves very much to be the latter.

Set in 1932, it tells of a battle between heavily-armed, poorly rendered talking emus and the Australian army.

Very much like the Stan Australian “comedy” series C.A.U.G.H.T the only (admittedly perverse) reason to keep watching after the first excruciating minutes is to see if the thing can possibly get any worse. It does.

The performances are painful to endure, the production values are sub-rock bottom, the story lacking any internal logic.

The film’s line of humour relies heavily on vulgarity and gross outs, but as the films of John Waters and some of the Monty Python oeuvre demonstrate there is an art to being disgusting. Vulgarity for the sake of comedy is a noble enterprise. Vulgarity for its own sake is not only unfunny, it’s boring.

The Emu War is so comprehensively dreadful it gives piss farting around on film a bad name.

The film’s ultra-low budget fills the frame with awful visual effects, cheap-looking puppetry and anachronisms such as holding a training session in front of a jet fighter and wildly unfit soldiers carrying modern weapons.

The idea that this is all just part of the fun of the film is cosmically generous, especially when there is no discernible sense of comedic style to be found.

Rather than go on and on, let the simple point be made that even the wackiest comedy lark needs a cohesive baseline.

Look at early Woody Allen films such as Bananas and Sleeper. Even Mel Brooks gave Blazing Saddles structure.

The Emu War is supposedly “inspired” by an actual historical event about a failed attempt in 1932 when the army was sent to cull the emu population in a West Australian district. And this is what they came up with?

Saddest of all is watching the film’s closing credits and wondering – as we have often done over the decades – how so many people could be involved in something so wretched.

Then, right at the end, there it is – the dual-logo slide declaring how “principle production and development funding” came courtesy of the Australian Government and Screen Australia. (Is “principle production” related at all to “principal production”? Spellcheck fail, mayhaps?)

This would have been bad enough 30 years ago, but it’s 2024. Why is the Australian film industry still capable of making movies this bad? Why is taxpayer money involved?

And where is the person with the authority to say “no”?

Is there really nobody in the production chain who can identify when something is terrible and declare “this stops now”?

Footnote: Screen Australia was formed in 2008, replacing Film Australia, the Australian Film Commission and the Film Financing Corporation.