Boasting even more resilience than the underdog sports movie, the "man-child-into-adult" romantic dramedy may be the world's most enduring and unchangeable formula. Despite being a male drifting somewhat aimlessly toward thirty myself, there are few sub-genres I'd be happier to see retired from cinema forever than romantic dramedies about protagonists fitting that very description. Not Suitable For Children is a perfect subject for discussion, as it indicates how impossible it is to inject even an ounce of spontaneity or invention into one of these movies.
Today's manchild is Jonah (Ryan Kwanten), who lives with his friends Stevie (Sarah Snook) and Gus (Ryan Corr), in a house bequeathed to him by a relative. There, he and Gus throw massive house parties each weekend with popular DJs, earning money on door fees. Jonah's also trying to cover up his lingering feelings for Ava (Bojana Novakovic) by picking up women at the parties, but his latest hook-up is stopped short when the woman finds a lump in his testicle. Although Jonah's cancer can be treated by removing the ball, the doctor informs him that he will be rendered infertile, sending Jonah into a sudden panic as he realizes he always wanted children. His situation worsens further when he learns that his sperm are unresponsive to freezing, leaving him only three weeks to find a woman willing to carry a child of his own.
The "heroes" of these kinds of movies are usually pretty insufferable, but Kwanten hits a real low with an incredibly one-note performance. The pre-diagnosis period of the movie lasts about three or four minutes, and from then on we're saddled with Sad Jonah, who crooks his eyebrows up into a plaintive, hopeful stare at every woman he propositions. It's boring after about ten minutes, obnoxious after about fifteen, and painful for the remainder of the movie, which is only 97 minutes long, but feels like several hours. A smarter screenplay would have something to say about Jonah's diagnosis actually makes him more selfish, but the film appears to sympathize with him instead, suggesting that despite his slacker tendencies, Jonah might actually be a good father.
It should not surprise anyone who has seen a movie before that Stevie comes to his rescue, first as an advisor about what he's doing wrong in trying to find a suitable mom, and ultimately, in volunteering for the position when Jonah reveals he'd happily give the house to anyone who signed up for the gig. The one relief provided by screenwriter Michael Lucas falling back on the most unoriginal story ever is that Snook gets more screen time. With delivery and appearance that very much suggest an Australian Emma Stone, Snook exudes a natural charisma that threatens to drown out the plot gears grinding and Kwanten's exasperatingly needy performance. Some credit also has to be given back to Lucas for making sure that Stevie is a decently rounded character. Her journey from kid-hater to kid-wanter may bug women for playing into traditional gender roles, but at least the film devotes screen time to her character making the transformation and gets into her headspace.
As the film shifts into the home stretch, even Snook's contributions are squished by standard romantic comedy beats and unnecessary fights -- wounds inflicted only so the filmmakers can bandage them up into a happy ending. Consider this: there are only a couple of ways Not Suitable For Children can end, and even the subversion of the more predictable possibility is a cliche in and of itself. Beyond that, neither stops to consider the inherent selfishness of these stories. There was an adult in Jonah all along, one who might find happiness with a beautiful woman, and all it took for him to realize it was someone chopping one of his balls off and a complete transformation of her personal priorities. Aww.
Truth in advertising: the key art for Not Suitable For Children depicts Ryan Kwanten with the same sad-eyed expression he wears on his face for 75% of the movie. The disc comes in a plastic-conserving Vortex Blu-Ray case, and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Aside from a few minor glitches, the 2.35:1 AVC 1080p picture on this disc is good. Although the film was shot on digital, there's a convincing sheen of grain on the image that gives it a nice filmic look. Color is decent if not eye-popping, and detail is very impressive, especially in dark scenes. Posterization occasionally pops up in transitions and a couple party lights are over-saturated, but these are minor quibbles. A DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is also quite nice, given all the opportunities it has to show off. The sound centerpieces of the movie, of course, are the massive DJ parties that the trio keep throwing, thumping the low end like you're actually attending. Other songs on the soundtrack also keep the track brisk and lively even when the film settles into dialogue-heavy sections. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included, as well as a standard-def Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.
Cast and crew interviews sits down with director Peter Templeman, Ryan Kwanten, Ryan Corr, and Sarah Snook (58:11, HD) for some generic EPK interviews. Might hold the viewer's interest for a few minutes, but these are deathly dry. "Behind the Scenes" (14:23, HD) is a much better overview of the production, containing some of the same material.
Trailers for Back to 1942, Dangerous Liasons (2012), and General Education play before the main menu. An original theatrical trailer for Not Suitable For Children is also included.
Sarah Snook is charming, and there are some nice moments, but Not Suitable For Children is overlong and overly familiar, treading the same beats as so many comedies about young men trying to find their direction in life. Skip it.
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