A documentary about Queensland’s cane toad problem probably sounds like dullsville to most. The idea of such a film being in 3D sounds ludicrous. But Cane Toads: The Conquest is a real laugh riot throughout while also predicting doomsday for northern Australia’s environment.
Having been introduced into Queensland’s cane crops in 1935 to eradicate all the cane beetles eating the crops, these little green buggers not only were absolutely useless in their objective, but became a far worse problem for both farmers and Australia’s ecosystem. They have spread throughout Queensland and much of the north of the Northern Territory with Western Australia in their sights.
Following up from its 1988 predecessor Cane Toads: An Unnatural History, this off-the-wall doco not only shows the great distances the cane toads have covered since arriving in Australia, but various peoples’ extreme opinions of their little green neighbours. The old defeated cane farmers absolutely hate them with every inch of their bodies, and the Northern Territory politicians want them eliminated with extreme prejudice. Then there are those who grew up with pet cane toads, and entrepreneurs making a packet off all things cane toad (such as cane toad skin hand bags!). The most memorable of this doco’s eccentric participants is Kevin Ladynski, whose earnest love for cane toads led him to create a road show with stuffed dead cane toads made to look like they are doing things from partying at a nightclub, playing footy, or witnessing a horrific car accident; if this isn’t endearing, then nothing is.
The 3D presentation highlights all the wonderful weirdness of the film, from the toads eating bugs to enhancing the hilarious hallucinations a dog sees after licking a toad. The interesting ways people combat the toads spreading to re-enactments of both light-hearted and depressing events involving cane toads make the humour bittersweet. In fact, the funny parts are so hilarious that they somewhat make the more informative scenes seem dull, making viewers immediately want more laughs rather than facts. The more depressing side of how the toads have destroyed cane farmers’ livelihoods and the environment bring viewers back to the reality that this is a horrible epidemic being faced, not just a farce about one of Australia’s biggest blunders. Yet you cannot help but feel somewhat sorry for the cane toads too; they need a home too, don’t they?
Originally published at meapcareers.com.au on Thursday 26 May 2011