Les Patterson Saves The World (1987)

Country: Australia
Director: George Miller
Starring: Barry Humphries, Pamela Stephenson, Thaao Penghlis, Andrew Clarke, Henri Szeps, Joan Rivers, Graham Kennedy, John Clarke, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Garth Meade, Paul Jennings
Music: Tim Finn

Let’s get this straight, Les Patteron Saves The World is not a good film. But it moves at a fair clip, so you wont have time to be bored with it, if you have the courage to watch it. The film is a comedy and the jokes fly thick and fast, but most miss their targets by a long shot. Most of the joke setups are rather transparent too. For example Henri Szeps character is Dr, Charles Herpes. Now you know that somewhere in the picture, somebody is going to say “I want Herpes”, or “What was his name? It’s on the tip of my tongue!” Yep, they’re both included, but it takes a while for the payoff. You know it’s coming, but when?

If you have never encountered Sir Les Patterson before, well he’s a sight to behold. The one time, Australian Minster for the Yarts, is a lecherous, drunken, chainsmoking, unkempt slob. His complexion is ruddy, his teeth are yellow, and his hair is wild. In Les Patterson Saves The World, Les has received a promotion. He is now Australia’s ambassador to the United Nations.

The film opens in New York. A limousine, sporting a boxing kangaroo flag, weaves it’s way through the traffic. In the back seat is Sir Les Patterson (Barry Humphries). He is on his way to the U.N. Building to deliver a speech, but on route he stops off at a restaurant for some nosh, with a couple of dolly birds. After his liquid lunch, Les pays with his credit card. Printed on the card is: ‘Bill to: The Australian Taxpayer’. Another insight into the type of the humour in this film is the card number: RU4 692 – yep, we’re talkin’ low brow all the way.

Already plastered, Les stops at his office to pick up his speech, but rather than study it, he ducks into the men’s room and into a cubicle where he has hidden a bottle of vodka in the cistern. Les downs a sizeable amount and replaces the bottle. His staff aren’t too impressed with the shambolic mess that stands before them, and make a futile attempt to sober him up before his speech. They attempt this by shoveling some food into him. Unfortunately the only food on hand is a couple of tins of ‘baked beans’. Now, dear reader, you know where this is going don’t you? Okay, I’ll spell out a little more.

At the United Nation building, with his suit covered in baked bean stains, Les addresses the assembly. During his speech, he burps, farts and scratches his nuts. After describing Australia as having ‘more culture than a penicillin factory’, he drops his notes. He bends over to pick them up. Seated behind Les, another delegate attempts to light a cigarette with his lighter. Les lets fly with an enormous fart which is ignited by the flame from the lighter. A giant wall of flame shoots back for three rows. Mustafa Toul (Garth Meade), the president of Abu Niviah, a fictitious Middle Eastern country, in his jellaba, is engulfed in the flames. Mustafa Toul is a human torch, and Les is in deep trouble.

Not surprisingly, Les is called back to Australia. His meeting with the Prime Minister doesn’t go well. It looks as if Les is out of a job, when the President of the United States (Joan Rivers) calls on the phone. It looks like an international crisis can be diverted if Les is sent to Abu Niviah as an Ambassor. So Les is given a promotion and packed off to the middle East.

Naturally this is just an opportunity for Mustafa Toul to extract his vengeance. He has a few things planned for Les, including scorpions on the testicles, and covering him in dung beetles. But before Mustafa Toul can carry out his evil plan, he is overthrown by Colonel Richard Godowni (Thaao Panghlis). With a new leader in Abu Niviah, Les is once again in the good books and the world is at peace again.

But all is not as it seems. Godowni is in league with the Russians, and intends to infect the Western world with a deadly, plague like virus called H.E.L.P. Once contracted, this virus instantly makes your face bubble, and green pus filled blisters appear. Godowni’s plan is to infect the U.S. with the virus sprayed onto a shipment of toilet seats.

Barry Humphries most popular character is Dame Edna Everage, and she pops up in this film too, as Agent Wisteria One. In the second half of this film, she gets as much screen time as Les, and it could be argued, that despite this film’s title, it is in fact Dame Edna who saves the world, not Les. As a cover, Dame Edna is leading the ‘Possums of Peace’, a Greenpeace style organisation, populated exclusively by Australian housewives, on a world tour.

The cast is interesting, but most are wasted, particularly Pamela Stephenson. Graham Kennedy, John Clarke, and Joan Rivers roles are little more than cameo appearances. Andrew Clarke, who appeared as The Saint, in The Saint In Manhattan plays Neville Thonge, Les’ assistant in the Middle East. He shares a bizarre Village People style scene in a hotel room with Hugh Keays-Byrne. Keays-Byrne is most famous for his role as ‘The Toecutter’ in the original Mad Max. Speaking of Mad Max, George Miller who directed this film is not the one who directed Mad Max and Babe, but the one who directed The Man From Snowy River and The Last Outlaw.

Les Patterson Saves The World is hard to categorise as a film. Sure it’s a comedy, but there are so many styles of comedy on display, from slapstick to gross out toilet humour, and many more in between. It has to be considered a failure, and the rumours are that it was pulled from distribution in the U.S. After just a few days. I don’t think it is quite that bad, and I’d suggest fans of Barry Humphries work, may even get quite a bit of enjoyment out of it. But for most people, ‘Beware’.

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