It’s 1968 and four young singers, bound together by family, head off to wartime Vietnam to cheer up the troops with their new music act. Managed and tutored in the ‘way of soul’ by the often drunken Irishman David Lovelace (O’Dowd), it’s seems that the war isn’t the main concern as past conflicts within the group, especially between oldest sister Gail (Deborah Mailman) and white skinned, newly recruited to the group, cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens). As they travel from troop to troop, lifting the men’s moral, love is found and lost, friendships are made and broken, all under the constant looming cloud of danger.
Put Chris O’Dowd in a role where he is able to riff and have fun with his character and, almost certainly, you’re going to get something worth watching. Even if only for the laughs. And that’s what we’ve got, O’Dowd on top form as his insanely likeable persona bleeds through on screen. Which in itself is a huge part of why the film works in the first place. A perfectly entertaining time that, although guilty of trying to pull on your heartstrings a little too hard, delivers laughs, well worked characters and, in places, a decent amount of emotion.
Underpinned with a racial storyline that doesn’t really work in the way it should, it’s not until a scene closer to the end that we understand the animosity between two characters, which is welcomed as up to that point it was feeling a bit overplayed and annoying. However – and gladly so – it’s not a politically charged film and it doesn’t try to be, yes there are race based arguments but it never preoccupies itself with that kind of story and always opts for the fun, light-hearted approach. Although consistently enjoyable, there is some fat that could be trimmed. A central romance involving O’Dowd being the biggest offender as well as, maybe, a few instances where it tries to be a little too broad with its one liners, but other that it’s a really solid outing for director Blair.
With a soundtrack for the ages rocking like the film’s beating heart, The Sapphires isn’t a film that I’ll rush out to see again but as a piece of light entertainment, that is as charming as it is funny, you will not be disappointed. O’Dowd impresses, both comedically and dramatically, and with a cast of mostly unknowns, it presses all the right buttons that will leave a smile etched on your face.