Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle The Castle

By Marjorie Baumgarten

JUNE 7, 1999: 

D: Rob Sitch; with Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Sophie Lee, Anthony Simcoe, Charles Tingwell, Tiriel Mora, Wayne Hope. (R, 82 min.)

The Castle is an Australian movie about the triumph of the little guys ... or maybe just the triumph of the underdog dumb guys. It was Australia's highest-grossing movie of 1997. The Kerrigan family is a happy-go-lucky brood. Mom, Dad, and the four kids love their home on the outskirts of Melbourne. It's a home that's a real fixer-upper with portions of additions built on here and there and perky and useless accouterments everywhere. They love its location, too -- right next to the airport runway and a toxic dumpsite. (If any of them were ever to travel anywhere by plane it would be such a short trip to the airport.) The Kerrigans' home is their castle. Then one day they receive government papers informing their beloved home has been "cumpulsorily acquired" for an airport expansion. The family and their eccentric neighbors fight the eviction all the way to the Supreme Court. Though The Castle is sure to evoke special reactions during its run in Austin due to this city's long struggle with the issue of airport location, the movie is nevertheless a peculiarly Aussie slice of optimistic comedy. What passes for affectionate portraits may instead be rude caricatures. The story's comedy derives from its deadpan tone in which the narrator's voiceover account of the events is then repeated by the actors. Twice as nice, I suppose. Comedy is a hard thing to put your finger on when it goes wrong. My sense was that I was laughing at the characters and not with them, even though we're all well-trained to root for the little guy. Still, the movie was wildly popular in its home country and then also quite popular when it showed at Sundance in 1998. Miramax bought this micro-budgeted movie on the spot for $6 million and then proceeded to keep it on the shelf for a year and a half before giving it this halfhearted release. The reasons are baffling. But not nearly as baffling as why the Kerrigans think their home is a castle.
2.0 stars

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