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  Dish, The Fly Me To The Moon
Year: 2000
Director: Rob Sitch
Stars: Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, Patrick Warburton, Roy Billing, Genevieve Mooy, Tayler Kane, Bille Brown, Andrew S. Gilbert, Lenka Kripac, Matthew Moore, Eliza Szonert, John McMartin, Carl Snell, Billy Mitchell, John Flaus
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: An elderly Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill) visits a large satellite dish situated on the outskirts of the small Australian town of Parkes. As he stands before it, taking in the majesty of the sight, a member of staff at the dish approaches and tells him he's in the wrong place and tours are conducted on the other side. Nevertheless, Cliff takes time to enjoy the view and his memories because back in July of 1969 he was the head of the team working there, which just happened to be when the first manned flight to the moon was taking place. The whole world was anticipating the event, but for the crew of the Parkes dish and the townsfolk, this would be more important as they were to have the privilege of receiving the signals from Apollo 11 when the moon was over the Southern Hemisphere.

Certain events bring the world together, and none more so than the first men on the moon. Written by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy and director Rob Sitch, this gentle, generous comedy takes that global sensation and reduces it to a smalltown tale, but in doing so accentuates the human angle - it's so easy to regard those astronauts as supermen and the NASA mission control as boffins of towering intellect that The Dish is a refreshing take on the famous story. The style is reminiscent of Bill Forsyth's Local Hero, with the amusingly parochial Parkes tremendously excited to be part of history, even earning visits from the American ambassador and the Prime Minister of Australia and doing their level best to live up to the occasion with parties, parades and celebratory dances.

The team of the dish consists of four men, loosely based on real people, led by the avuncular, pipe smoking Cliff. Mitch (Kevin Harrington) is the prickly one, always making sarcastic comments, and Glenn (Tom Long) is the shy one, secretly in love with the girl who brings the men their sandwiches. Lastly, there's Al (Patrick Warburton), the man from NASA, who Mitch feels is looking down on them when he's simply being professional. Despite being a small scale operation, much like the story, their emotions are magnified by the gravity of the situation and the potential disasters that strike along the way. Back in town, the Mayor (Roy Billing - very funny) is relishing the prestige the moon landing is lending his town, and is dreaming of bigger and better things for himself in the political arena.

The ensemble cast works together with great flair, squeezing every comic nuance from the fine script; someone wonders how Neil Armstrong and company will go to the toilet up there and the Mayor replies, "I reckon they just hold it in." But the dish hits its first snag when there's a power cut, and the emergency back up generator fails because of Mitch's error. Now they find themselves lying to NASA about the loss of signal and fighting against the clock to get it back, an endeavour hampered by the fact that the ambassador arrives to survey the equipment. This leads them to pretend that they're receiving signals from Neil Armstrong by using their dim security guard's walkie talkie, which naturally is intercepted by the guard to tell Mr Armstrong what a great job he's doing.

I suppose no great event since the middle of the twentieth century seems as if it's really happened unless it's been on television, and that's something that The Dish capitalises on, making Parkes all the more significant because it has gained fame through TV. The team at the satellite dish may make the odd mistake, but that enhances the human aspect of the story, and they are more than capable when push comes to shove. Another problem arises when the weather turns against them, ironically as the place was chosen for its stable environment, and although we know that the mission went ahead without loss of the pictures it's to the film's credit that the atmosphere still manages to be tense. Perhaps the teary-eyed sentimentality of the finale is a little overdone for these cynical times, but the whole enterprise reminds you of the people working behind the scenes and their worth, while still offering a good many laughs. And the American national anthem never sounded so good. Music by Edmund Choi.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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