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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 35.97%
Average: 7.19%
Pretty Bad: 5.76%
Total Crap: 4.32%

8 reviews, 91 user ratings

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Dish, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

2 stars

The Castle was a slick piece of commercial film-making and was a big hit in Australia. The Dish is the second film from the Working Dog team (Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy and Rob Sitch), and it should appeal to international audiences as well.

The idea behind it is terrific. The television pictures of man's first steps on the moon on 21 July 1969 were relayed from the satellite dish in Parkes, New South Wales. The Dish gives an entirely Australian perspective on the moon landing by focusing on the small technical team at the station (led by Sam Neill) and their pride in taking a pivotal role in an historic moment. The story also encompasses some of the people of Parkes, including the Mayor (Roy Billings), and various visitors to the town - Al Burnett from NASA, who's working at the dish (Patrick Warburton), and Bille Brown as an acerbic Prime Minister Gorton.

What lets The Dish down and makes it a disappointment is the poor story telling. A good script is more than a great premise and some witty lines. This is a moment in Australian history that cries out for recounting, but it's a small moment, and it feels like it's been padded to feature-length. The padding needn't be fatal if it was diverting, but it's a string of tired cliches. The story is even told in flashback (with Sam Neill in aging makeup) for little purpose but to pass time.

The team of 20 or so workers at the dish is compressed into four desperately limited characters. From the moment Sam Neill's Cliff hesitates before affirming to a reporter that he's married, we know that his wife has recently died and that he hasn't gotten over it yet. Glenn (Tom Long, who's naivete is supposed to be charming, but renders him a wearisome halfwit) is too shy to ask out a pretty local (Eliza Szonert) who obviously has a crush on him. Need I say how that turns out? (I wanted to scream at Szonert, who brings freshness to her limited role, not to waste her time on him.) Which leaves Mitch (Kevin Harrington) and Al, who personify the contrasting Australian and American personality by bickering, until the inevitable crisis brings them together (you've seen these characters before too, most recently in The Perfect Storm).

The consolation in The Dish is the supporting cast, who supply local Australian "colour". Like The Castle, the characterisations and social satire are spot-on, though they seem more affectionate this time, so it's easier to laugh. Billings brings his superb comic timing to the role of the Mayor and steals the film. At times, the wit approaches Working Dog's razor-sharp satirical current affairs television show, Frontline. When Cliff and Al attend a celebratory lunch at the Mayor's house, the actors get a chance to sparkle, since their dialogue is (temporarily) not weighted down with profundities.

Among the humorous incidental characters are a bush poet (Colette Mann, making a brief appearance at the end) and school teacher (memorably despairing of all the show-and-tell projects involving rockets and space). The bush poet is funny because we don't have to imagine that she's a bush poet all day. The Mayor's daughter (Lenka Kripac), brimming with second-hand, anti-American political consciousness makes us laugh because she looks like she believes what she says. But the wannabe-soldier who's always in uniform to court her is a bum note. The daughter's conviction is what makes her funny, and it's something she carries with her. It stretches credulity to accept this man parading around town pretending to be something he's not.

My antagonism towards this film is possibly a reaction to the jingoistic (and knee-jerk) praise that's being heaped on it. The Dish itself is self-consciously jingoistic and twee. The characters endlessly stand around congratulating themselves on what a great moment they're part of and what a tremendous job they've done (with Edmund Choi's strident score in the background). The neat visual joke of the Australians playing cricket on the upside down dish is lingered on unnecessarily. These leaden touches distract from Sitch's direction. He has a good visual sense, and The Dish looks good on the big screen (thanks also to Graeme Wood's cinematography). It captures the excitement of the period by cleverly mixing period music and newsreel footage. All those scenes of people clustered around their television set - in classrooms and homes - must evoke nostalgia in people who remember 1969, and it may be enough to satisfy them. There certainly isn't any suspense, even when things threaten to go wrong (unlike, say, Apollo 13) because the characters have already congratulated themselves on what a good job they did.

Towards the very end, there's a slow-motion flashback of scenes from earlier in the film. Why do the film-makers insist on doing this (beyond padding out running time)? It's been less than an hour since we've seen and heard these moments a first time. Has television shortened our attention spans this much?

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originally posted: 11/27/00 13:33:08
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User Comments

8/17/12 Ed Great movie about a greater event. Charming, entertaining and down to earth. 5 stars
5/27/11 yanks4oz Spot on, Matt! (Dec07) - appears reviewer too young to realize just how GIANT the Leap was! 5 stars
11/23/09 madie BORING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
10/29/08 Jeremy I loved the soundtrack. 4 stars
10/01/08 Annie G It would have been predictable to poke fun at these people but this film does not. 4 stars
9/20/08 Lottie Holmes Wonderful movie! Loved the telescope and story line. Don't miss this one! 5 stars
3/21/08 frances sawyer rarely a factual movie presented so entertainly 5 stars
12/04/07 Matt Charming, witty and fun - with a groovy soundtrack. A rare gem. 5 stars
8/11/07 D.Earnest watched on a whim & was astonished & delighted 5 stars
2/04/07 Warren Absolutley the best movie. Authentic and very funny 5 stars
11/05/06 K3LL!3 this movie put me to sleep, i had to watch it for a skool assignment. i would rather fail 1 stars
10/23/06 Random great. That's all 5 stars
5/07/06 chienne Loved it, soundtrack, 60's feel & genuinely hilarious moments 5 stars
12/31/05 Peter Harding Fantastic movie 5 stars
10/26/05 cdgffg great 5 stars
10/11/05 brenton morely it sucks 1 stars
12/12/04 Evan Good "tribute" flick 4 stars
5/13/04 combie great, not just funny but educational,never new australia was involved 5 stars
3/17/04 Jaimi I think it is an inspirational movie 4 stars
2/26/04 sprout fun to watch 4 stars
1/07/04 Amba Very good, enjoyable to watch 5 stars
10/22/03 Stephen Hon This review is really disappointing. U contradict urself. I've seen betta. 5 stars
10/20/03 Samuel Sungkook Lee An Inspiring, heartwarming film with a plethora of cleverly thought out comedy. Excellent! 5 stars
1/18/03 chilly a great film and a great soundtrack, watch this film now its great! 5 stars
8/07/02 Kate Superbly acted 5 stars
4/03/02 A.Mcob You can only understand it if you are australian 4 stars
3/18/02 SJKelley A real treat. A confident piece of moviemaking with good performances. 4 stars
10/04/01 George Partington Sweet, lovingly rendered evocation of a period (late 60s) and an event. Full of warmth. 5 stars
9/07/01 darrin perrone heart warming,comedy/drama a movie with heart 5 stars
9/06/01 Monday Morning Very very good. Would recommend to any audience. 4 stars
9/05/01 Warren Burgess The audience actually clapped at the end - is this MN? 5 stars
8/29/01 Gary Very funny and refreshingly low-key and warming, without being sickly and sentimental. 4 stars
8/20/01 rudy great movie! sam neill is a great actor. 5 stars
6/19/01 Mike Larson It was breathtaking 5 stars
5/31/01 Peanut and Banana sandwich Warm and cosy comedy - good flick. 4 stars
5/29/01 Andy Meakin Smart, witty, fun...go see it now. 5 stars
5/26/01 sweet flick!! very feel-good 5 stars
5/25/01 Matthew Bartley The kind of film that makes you go 'Ah,bless...' Sweet flick 4 stars
5/22/01 sense of humor ligthen up, Steve G. - this isn't a PBS documentary 5 stars
5/22/01 Mark Albrow good,unpretententious,warm,human,true story 5 stars
5/21/01 Judy G. warm, funny, thoroughly enjoyable! 4 stars
5/01/01 Lianne Christian Fabulous 4 stars
5/01/01 Anthony Dever Sausages 5 stars
4/30/01 Allen Coupe total crap 2 stars
4/30/01 Trevor Langdon see it!! 4 stars
4/29/01 t.r. great characters, inspiring story, good laughs, fun nostalgia 5 stars
4/27/01 Steve Emery Excellent - very entertaining 5 stars
4/26/01 Billabongchic Finally, something different instead of the boring, fake, useless films of Hollywood. 5 stars
4/23/01 DishWasher Excellent 5 stars
4/20/01 Matt GO YOU BIG RED FIRE ENGINE 5 stars
4/18/01 A Real NASA Rocket Scientist This flick tells it like it is - wonderful, terrifying. That's what my job is like! 5 stars
4/08/01 Lord Raymos Nice, funny, entertaining, but overly cute like 3 stars
4/05/01 Heather Very funny movie, full of rich, interesting characters, worth looking out for! 5 stars
3/25/01 zoe really good 4 stars
3/24/01 Kyle Saw it in AU, but it is now opening in the US .... not to be missed 5 stars
3/24/01 Sara Character Driven, Quaint, Cute & Funny, Not A Nail Biter, but not meant to be. 4 stars
3/19/01 Alison Bugg Visually stunning,an Austrlian master peice of comedy that envokes the veiwers sences. 5 stars
3/19/01 J.Arcane Cosy,cosy, but not bad for an Aussie flick. 4 stars
3/13/01 Nathan Cherny A well told tale augmented by well timed humor pathos and humanity... thoroughly enjoyed 4 stars
12/13/00 Laron I was going to write out quite a bit but it doesn't seem to fit... in here.. so this will h 5 stars
12/10/00 marko Who needs Disney when we can do the same syrupy bullshit as this film proves. 3 stars
12/02/00 Wendy Buttel Dull as all hell . If it wasnt by Working Dog we wouldnt have heard of it 2 stars
11/28/00 cathy rolland thoroughly enjoyable - brought back lots of memories. I thought the characters were great. 4 stars
11/28/00 Clint Rolfe This film rocks - who's the wanker above who did that review, God I hope you die! 5 stars
11/20/00 Mic Sitch does it again. 4 stars
11/12/00 Adam T Movies about stuffups are allways the best. 5 stars
11/11/00 Aiken Drum Tops 5 stars
11/11/00 actors anonymous Better than your average fruit bowl 5 stars
11/07/00 Steve Gilbert This film has no entertainment value whatsoever 1 stars
11/05/00 John Bamford the sub plotsa do go nowhere but i think they show the down to earthness of the characters 4 stars
11/01/00 Michael S Simple story, told so that it feels great. More inspiring than hilarious though... 5 stars
10/29/00 Fred Nerk Good. 5 stars
10/29/00 steve Great movie, but will it make it in America? 5 stars
10/29/00 Nancy Haire Good music and felt like the times 4 stars
10/27/00 Jodie Ozzie stereotypes were very amusing. Give Rob Stich a break, I thought he did brilliantly 5 stars
10/25/00 Go Swans best oz flick since...the castle. coincidence? 5 stars
10/23/00 neil bartlett very clever witty comedy full of belly laughs Why didn't they enter it for AFI awards? 5 stars
10/22/00 sean allen I wish it wasn't directed by Sitch 5 stars
10/22/00 Viking A bit slow at times, but overall a great effort 4 stars
10/20/00 matthew smith a Sheer delight, wonderful characters 5 stars
10/19/00 Jason Whittaker The best Australian film in many a year 5 stars
10/18/00 jimmy Cliche-bound, overacted, underwritten; talented team should try harder 3 stars
10/18/00 Klute. A fine Australian movie that will play to all audiences. Great fun, great flick. 4 stars
10/17/00 DjWrexxy OLD TIMER TOTAL BULLSHIT 1 stars
10/15/00 Psike Solid cast and background of the lunar landing make this one worthwhile. 4 stars
9/04/00 Waldo A great cast and a great story. Even better than The Castle. 5 stars
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  27-Apr-2001 (PG-13)


  19-Oct-2000 (M)

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