Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Movie Log: The Dish

There are some movies that seem to exist only because some local kid grew up, made good, and got on some film commission or other. The Dish is one of those movies.

There's nothing at all wrong with it -- on the contrary, it's a pleasant, diverting story, with some good characters and a happy ending we already know -- but it's a minor, sidebar story to something that's practically ancient history these days, and I can't see how it ever struck anyone as the kind of idea that a movie just had to be based on.

That idea? The Dish is the story of the radiotelescope dish in Parkes, Australia -- and, more specifically, about the biggest event in which the Parkes dish was ever invovled, Apollo 11's first landing on the moon. The Dish doesn't have a plot that takes place against the backdrop of the moon landing; the moon landing and its effect on Parkes is the story -- mostly about the crew at the dish, with a subplot about Parkes's mayor. The three locals who run the dish are working with an American overseeing the project -- does this lead to major conflicts? Well, it could have, but the American is a nice guy, and the little conflict passes quickly. In this, like so much else, The Dish resolutely avoids drama -- perhaps to hew closer to real life, which I guess is admirable.

So The Dish is small, a bit quirky, and lovable -- and utterly free from Hollywoodization. Plus, it's got Sam Neill in it, who's always a good actor to watch work, and Patrick Warburton, whom I'm sure has done something less than wonderful along the line somewhere, but I can't call it to mind. They're both actors that you immediately trust when you see them, and they fulfill that trust in this movie.

I guess I'd recommend The Dish; I enjoyed watching it. But it's a very slight movie, which seems to exist mostly out of Aussie (or maybe specifically Parkes) pride.

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