The Dish
Dir: Rob Sitch
Star: Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, Patrick Warburton
Cert / Year: 12 - PG13 / 2000
Format: Video

In 1969 America sent Neil Armstrong to the moon, and this isn't his story. This is the story of the large receiving dish built in a sheep paddock in Parkes Australia, and it's vital role it played in the moon landings. It is the story of an assorted bunch of characters as they battle human error, minor acts of God, and sheep in order to ensure that the pictures of the moonwalk make it back to Earth.

Australia specialises in taking a subject that on the whole seems boring and crafting an excellent quirky comedy out of it. Films like Pricilla Queen of the Desert, Murielís Wedding and Strictly Ballroom are all minor classics. This film does for radio astronomy what Strictly Ballroom did for dancing.

This relatively minor footnote in world history is a strange subject for a film. How on earth do you make a film about a radio telescope interesting or indeed funny? Well full credit must be given to the witty and well-written script. It changes the premise into a film about culture clash and national pride. Then by adding a touch of tension and drama, and some oddball local characters for comic effect we suddenly have a very watchable film.

The cast like the movie is a strange mix Hollywood bit part players and actors from the cast of Neighbors. Actually that is a little disingenuous. The cast is lead by Sam Neill who is never the most forceful or commanding presence. Fortunately here he isn't asked to be, as the laid back introspective attitude of his character acts as a springboard for the others to act off. The other actors do a fine job, with Kevin Harrington (Mitch) and Tom Long (Glenn) being particularly impressive. Providing a great turn is Tayler Kane who as the idiot security guard gets a number of big laughs. My only reservation is that Patrick Warburton just doesn't have the ability to give his role the necessary power as Al the stuffy yank.

The writers of this film have given the comedy that particular Australian charm, luckily the sense of humor that is associated with it is very portable. The dialogue is sharp and very witty, and the set pieces have just the right feel of reality for them to work. This leads to classic scenes like when after having lost Apollo 11 they fake a conversation with the spaceship, or when the band play Hawaii five O as the American national anthem. It is funny and it is fun. Add to this the tension of the actual job in hand, and the sense of awe at the achievement of sending a man to the moon and the film becomes a better description of how this event affected people then those based more directly on the mission. Overall this is an excellent script and one that makes the film.

The Dish is a funny, moving, and interesting movie, and another Australian triumph. The culture clash between the down to earth inhabitants of the small outback town of Parkes and the American officials is superbly exploited, and yet there is still time for personal drama. A quirky sixties soundtrack ties everything together nicely. This is a film I can whole-heartedly recommend. It should put a smile on your face if nothing else.


As Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, our only link was a satellite dish in rural Australia with a few bugs (And a few hundred sheep).


Cliff: This is science's chance to be daring.

Mitch: You just bullsh**ted NASA!

Glenn: Everything's fine.
Al: Except we lost Apollo 11!
Glenn: Oh, except for that.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home