The Dish (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/05/2001

Four stars out of five
Running time: 104 mins

Enjoyable Australian feel-good, comedy-drama that unearths some true unsung heroes in one of the world’s most famous events.

The Dish is made by the same comedy-team (think the Australian equivalent of The Fast Show) that produced The Castle, an under-rated comedy from a couple of years ago. A huge success in its native Australia, The Dish broke box office records over there and is hoping to repeat its success here.

Such a result would be well-deserved, as The Dish is a well-written, well-acted little gem that’s vaguely reminiscent of the black and white Ealing comedies. (Its poster, however, is a little misleading, as you could be forgiven for wondering when the comedy kangaroo was going to turn up).

The story is set in 1969, during the period of the Apollo 11 mission. In the small Australian town of Parkes, in the middle of a sheep paddock, stands a huge satellite dish, and suddenly, its team of three scientists (cardigan-wearing, pipe-smoking Sam Neill, wise-cracking Kevin Harrington and nerdy, awkward Tom Long) and their NASA supervisor (Patrick Warburton, whose voice may be familiar from The Emperor’s New Groove) find the eyes of the world turned upon them as they are chosen to relay pictures of the Moon Landings to 600 million people worldwide…

Naturally, we know that nothing goes wrong, but the film still manages to wring a fair amount of tension from the various mishaps that ensue, including a power-cut that wipes the computers, and a potentially lethal storm, whose gusts of 60mph winds threaten to topple the dish at the crucial moment.

The comedy in the film stems largely from the warm and affecting inter-play between the main characters (including their delightfully dim-witted security guard), but also from the supporting cast of townsfolk and a series of winning running gags – for example, the Mayor’s space-obsessed son patiently explaining everything to his confused Dad, the wannabe army cadet who fancies the Mayor’s angry daughter and so on.

Each of the characters veers dangerously close to caricature, yet they’re so well-acted that they never lapse into mere stereotypes. The film looks impressive, too, courtesy of photography by Graeme Wood, and some of the shots of the dish itself are both memorable and vaguely surreal, for example: Long emerging from the centre of the dish with two cups of tea; the scientists playing cricket in the dish and Neill and Warburton taking a ‘ride’ on it.

In general, then, this is well worth seeing. It’s not a comic masterpiece and will more likely induce quiet grins than loud guffaws, but it’s an interesting story told with an appealing comic spin – in short, the perfect feel-good movie.

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Content updated: 21/03/2019 04:15

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