The Emu War review – wall-to-wall silliness that will make you laugh-out loud, sometimes

<span>‘Don’t go into The Emu War expecting a Jaws-esque slow burner that only properly reveals the killer creatures towards the end.’</span><span>Photograph: Umbrella Entertainment</span>
‘Don’t go into The Emu War expecting a Jaws-esque slow burner that only properly reveals the killer creatures towards the end.’Photograph: Umbrella Entertainment

I’ve never forgotten the amusing poster tagline for the classic time travel comedy Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “History is about to be rewritten by two guys who can’t spell.” If those titular muttonheads could spell, and banged out a screenplay inspired by Australian history, perhaps they’d come up with something like The Emu War, a stupidly entertaining work of, um, revisionism about a very real military operation.

In 1932 the Royal Australian Artillery tried, and comprehensively failed, to cull some 20,000 of our native flightless birds which, according to this viscerally cockamamie comedy, were well-resourced and well-armed, fighting back with actual guns under the instruction of the well-endowed “Queen” emu (voiced by of Amy Moule), who looks like a cheap prototype designed for The Dark Crystal, crossed with one of the sex-crazed puppets from Meet the Feebles.

The film, by directors Lisa Fineberg, Jay Morrissey and John Campbell, begins with Luke McGregor in military garb, fighting for queen and country at Emu Massacre Creek. Major Meredith (Damian Callinan) is instructed not to move forward because the enemy has set a trap. A traumatic flashback reveals that a rampaging emu once took off with Meredith’s young son during a peaceful park outing; the flashback-addled major ignores the command and sends his troops off to their deaths.

Don’t go into The Emu War expecting a Jaws-esque slow burner that only properly reveals the killer creatures towards the end. In fact, we see too much of them, given the queen emu and her aforementioned wobbly bits are deployed for several gross-out gags.

The fate of Meredith’s troops and the abduction of his son form a double “this time it’s personal” whammy; he gets a chance to settle the score when he leads a platoon with a mission to kill the queen. Characters accompanying him include his daughter Mary Sue (Lisa Fineberg), who disguises herself as a man to get close to him; the mutton-headed Jackie (Aaron Gocs), who wants to drill a hole through Uluru because he thinks there might be gold in it; and Indigenous soldier Archie (Dane Simpson), who we’re told is great at finding bush tucker (the punchline being that he locates chips and dimmies).

Related: This is the story of how Australia went to war with emus and lost | First Dog on the Moon

Various historical figures pop up including explorers Burke and Wills, who are now conjoined twins (played by Colwyn Buckland and Filip Lescaut); Ned Kelly (Harry Tseng), who’s a standup comedian; and Harold Holt (Cameron James), a joke-making PM who pees his pants (and in case you were wondering: yes, he goes for a swim). The tone of the humour is very lowbrow: less than 15 minutes has elapsed before the first bestiality joke, and less than 20 before the second.

It’s difficult to make gross-out sex humour that’s actually funny and not cringey. Often — and is the case here — such jokes feel like the film-makers are shrugging their shoulders and saying “we can’t think of anything else.” But there’s a wide variety of gags in The Emu War and while they are inevitably hit and miss (given the sheer volume of them), many do land. All are proffered with an understanding that in this kind of movie you can be many things: loud, lewd, gross, silly, scatterbrained, indecorous. But you absolutely cannot be boring.

That’s easier said than done. When the tone is wall-to-wall silliness, the audience tends to have less tolerance for slow spots, which in other productions are sometimes considered necessary investments. And while I doubt anybody will be watching The Emu War and splitting their sides – save perhaps for those who’ve hit a sweet spot with their booze or illicit substances intake – it’s sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and maintains an enjoyably squirrelly momentum.

  • The Emu War is in Australian cinemas from Friday.