The Dish Movie Review

Another "quirky" Australian comedy is poised to be consumed by the ignorant American masses. The Dish (one of the most popular films in Australia!!) has been hailed as "an inspired human comedy" complete with quirky characters, a heartwarming story, nostalgic images of past glories, and enough sheep jokes to make my grandmother chuckle. The only thing they forgot to include is a reason to care about this fluff of a film.

Based on a true story, The Dish chronicles a giant satellite dish located in a sheep paddock in Parkes, Australia that assisted in transmitting communications and television signal broadcasts between Apollo 11 and NASA in the summer of 1969. The dish is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and was the only dish in 1969 powerful enough to capture the live camera broadcasts from the historic landing on the moon on July 20, 1969. Running the dish are four quirky characters: Cliff Burton (Sam Neill), the dish's supervisor who smokes too much and pines over his dead wife; Mitch (Kevin Harrington), the nerdy dish technician in love with the local town girl; Glen (Tom Long), the "chip-on-his-shoulder" dish operator who spends most of the film whining; and Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton), the stuffy NASA agent who wears thick glasses and carries the nurturing tone of Barbara Walters. These four knuckleheads, during Apollo's flight, overcome such obstacles as political ass-kissing, power outages, puppy love, gale force winds, and ridiculous moment-of-purpose speeches in order to not look like a bunch of Australian outback hicks working in the middle of a sheep paddock.

All these things end up being about as entertaining as watching the grass grow in the sheep paddock.

I'm the first to admit I must have missed the boat on this one. Elements of better films -- October Sky, Apollo 13, The Right Stuff -- kept popping into my head as I watched the mind-numbing montages that consumed way too much celluloid. Archived footage of NASA engineers working diligently is intermixed with serene, dopey smiles from the crew fiddling with the controls of thedish, rockets taking off, archive footage of crowds circa 1969, and astronauts landing on the moon. I felt like I was watching some cheap made-for-TV movie on a old console set.

The sentimental bookends of Sam Neill wearing bad makeup as an older man reminiscing about that summer of '69 further compounds the film's homogenous sap. There's nothing bad here, it's just innocuous, watery, and lifeless.

What's he smoking, anyway?


The Dish Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, 2001


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