The Castle, 1997.
Directed by Rob Sitch.
Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Anthony Simcoe, Sophie Lee and Wayne Hope.
An eccentric family fight for their home when the government seize their property for an airport expansion.
Voted Australia’s “favourite film”, The Castle is a simple, short comedy about one man’s fight to stand up for his family and their home. When the airport the live near (practically on) decides to expand, the Kerrigan family are forced to sell their home to the airline, and are expected to take the compensation and forget about it. But they didn’t expect the determination and values of the father, Darryl Kerrigan, (wonderfully played by Michael Caton) to take their case all the way to the High Court. As one news reporter puts it towards the film’s conclusion, it’s a Darryl verses Goliath tale.
Shot on what looks like a shoestring budget, the film’s quality might be deceiving to a viewer who demands instant gratification. But give the film time, and the rhythm of the script and its style of humour become clear. A lot of the laughs come from what is being said – this is a comedy which you have to listen to, no slapstick or wild car chases a la Will Ferrell or Vince Vaughn here - and there ends up being so many good lines, you give up trying to keep count.
There isn’t much to say in terms of story, and nothing out of the predictable happens at any stage, but the enjoyment comes in just watching the father fight his battle alongside the totally out-of-his-depth lawyer he recruits along the way. One of the funniest scenes involves the lawyer nervously attempting to convince a judge he has the slight idea what he’s talking about:
Judge: “What section of the Constitution has been breeched?”
Lawyer: “There is no one section...It’s just the....vibe of the thing.”
To see for yourself, you can watch this hilarious scene here.
There came a point in The Castle when I found myself won over by the Australian charm of it all. It may have been when the Dad serves fish burnt to a crisp like a bad piece of steak; or when we learn the only show he finds funnier than The World’s Funniest Home Videos is The Best of the World’s Funniest Home Videos; or when he simply uses the word ‘serenity’ out of context over and over again. The jokes are delivered fast but at all times it’s with a good heart – we are supposed to laugh at the family for their simple outlook on life, but it’s that same outlook which allows us to engage with them and their little story. Like any good comedy (of any good film for that matter) it is the characters which determine its success or failure; and the Kerrigan family are all well fleshed out and believable even in their degree of naivety.
It is also worth noting The Castle was the first film to star Eric Bana who has gone on to star in mega blockbusters like Hulk, Troy, and Star Trek. I’m sure he’d be proud to have this film as his feature debut.
Ultimately the writing and characters are what sets it apart and makes it so enjoyable. It reminds you of why we loved Crocodile Dundee all those years ago; it makes a refreshing change to see a different approach of making us laugh. Having said that, this is an Australian film made initially for the Australian market, so it’s a testament to the films popularity and success that it’s now found its way to Region 2 DVD.
VERDICT: 7 out of 10
Rohan Morbey - follow me on Twitter.
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