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The Dish (April 18/01)

The Dish is pretty much the very definition of a low-key film. Not much happens, but we get to know an oddball group of people really well.

Set during Neil Armstrong's legendary touchdown on the moon, The Dish tells the story of a small Australian town named Parkes saddled with a huge responsibility. There's this gigantic satellite dish in the middle of a sheep field, and NASA has decided that it's just in the right position to receive signals from the shuttle when NASA's own goes out of range. Working on the dish are only three people (with the help of one imported NASA employee), and they're not entirely sure if they're up to the challenge. Meanwhile, the small town is beyond excitement with this turn of events and are even expecting a visit from the Prime Minister of Austraila.

Sam Neill heads up the cast as the boss at the dish, while Patrick "Puddy" Warburton is the NASA guy sent to help them out. Like most Australian comedies, the whole thing is pretty much a low-key affair. This is mostly a human comedy, with occasional subplots delving into problems with the dish. One such problem forces those nutty employees to fake a radio transmission from the moon, lest the American ambassador think they can't do their jobs.

The Dish is a quietly inoffensive film, with a few laughs and a generally genial atmosphere. It's actually refreshing to see a movie that doesn't require scenes of people eating cancerous testicles to get laughs. But it doesn't really amount to much. I suppose, though, that was the point; let's paint a picture of a small town affected by this big occurrence, and (on that level) The Dish succeeds.

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