If koalas are considered among Australia’s national treasures, then a certain cute, cuddly critter must be their king. He’s the one everyone knows by name, even though he’s fictional. He’s graced books since 1933, thanks to author Dorothy Wall. Yes, he’s Blinky Bill.
In his second big-screen outing following the 1992 movie that shares his name, Blinky (voiced by Ryan Kwanten) is up to his usual brand of cheeky trouble, though his intentions — like his heart — remain in the right place. When his father, adventurer Bill (Richard Roxburgh), leaves their sanctuary of Green Patch to chase white dragons and hasn’t returned a year later, Blinky decides to search for him. He knows that his mother (Deborah Mailman) will disapprove, but with treacherous goanna Cranklepot (Barry Otto) trying to take over their home, the young koala is certain that wandering the outback is the right thing to do.
An animated — in both the colourful cartoon style and the lively antics they depict — escapade awaits in Blinky Bill the Movie, first journeying into a roadside store, and then venturing through several dangerous situations. Along the way, Blinky meets Nutsy (Robin McLeavy), a zoo koala unhappy about the idea of not being in captivity. He also attracts the attention of feral cat (Rufus Sewell) with sinister plans, seeks the assistance of a wandering wombat (Barry Humphries) and a stranded frill-necked lizard (David Wenham), and befriends two emus (Toni Collette) who help him hitch a ride.
The celebrity voices, particularly a charming Kwanten boasting his native accent for a change, help enliven a film that’s sweet but standard from start to finish. The feature's primary director, Deane Taylor, is content to stick with cliches when it comes to the story, hence the upbeat goings-on, array of comic sidekicks and fearsome feline. These days, it wouldn’t be an animal-oriented effort without a cranky kitty as a nemesis.
Buried underneath a family-friendly caper filled with slapstick sight gags is a slight, brief statement about Australia's treatment of asylum seekers, as seen in Cranklepot's desire to lock off Green Patch from outsiders; however, comic chaos always trounces commentary. The smooth edges you'll see in the computer-generated imagery also extend to the content, it seems, with even the usual environmental message typically included in Blinky Bill efforts absent. What stands out instead, and not always in a good way, is an overdose of Australiana and slang, as often seen in our nation's amusement-oriented, all-ages films.
Accordingly, for those who won't just find an anarchic koala fun just for the sake of it, Blinky Bill the Movie works well enough as a piece of nostalgia about an Australian icon. Delving beyond that is less fulfilling, though the film doesn't demand it, given that it really is aimed more at young audiences than the young at heart.