Errol Wallace (Hopkins) is a time-and-motion expert. When he moves from recommending redundancies at a Melbourne car factory to getting his teeth into the financial problems of Ball's Moccasin Factory, the locals hold a mirror up to him, and he doesn't always like what he sees.
Opening on a vague note of promise with the worst-imaginable rendition of House Of The Rising Sun performed at a community dance, this Australian attempt at reviving the Ealing comedy tradition of quirky class-consciousness instantly turns into a sappy crossbreed of teenage coming-of-angst and Other People's Money.
In Spotswood, Australia, 60s factory efficiency expert Anthony Hopkins - in another of those worthy roles he's taken as a penance for accidentally appearing in an Oscar-laden hit - is called upon to investigate a moccasin factory where the kindly old boss has let his lovably loony staff go about setting their own pace. And, as a result, they've concentrated more on their Scalextric championship than the production line. For a sidekick, Hopkins picks Ben Mendelsohn, a fumbling teen obsessed with making time with the boss' glam but heartless daughter, while neglecting the girl who is obviously just right for him.
Hopkins tries to bring the hard Spotswood economic facts home but, inevitably, is seduced by the beguiling daftness of it all and has a change of heart that sets up a tentative and unconvincing happy ending. Given that this is about a factory which blithely continues in its self-involved bonhomie as more efficient competitors prepare to obliterate it, there's a certain irony in that Spotswood is precisely the kind of well-meaning but not very good movie for which there isn't much room in the current cinematic marketplace.
Old-fashioned and sentimental, but genuinely amusing in places too, Spotswood isn't