Friday, May 21, 1999

Comedy cherishes home sweet home

Movie: The Castle

Posted on Fri, May 21, 1999 at 4:00 AM

***1/2
The Castle
Length: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Studio: Miramax Films
Website: http://www.miramax.com/mm_front/owa/mp.entryPoint?action=0&midStr=731
Release Date: 1999-05-21
Cast: Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Sophie Lee, Anthony Simcoe
Director: Rob Stitch
Screenwriter: Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy
Music Score: Craig Harnath
WorkNameSort: The Castle
Our Rating: 3.50

Life is beautiful for the Kerrigans, a working-class family from Cooloroo, Australia, whose modest home is located over a toxic landfill smack in the landing path of the airport. Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton), the friendly, industrious tow-truck driver who heads the clan, is always bursting with pride.

He regularly, loudly enthuses about the achievements of bubble-headed daughter Tracey (Sophie Lee) and the plain but wholesome fare -- meatloaf, sponge cake, ice cream -- that wife Sal (Anne Tenney) serves, just in time for the family to laugh without abandon at their favorite funniest-home-videos program.

Dad's greatest reward in life, perhaps, is his little piece of property, amended with such improvements as a tall TV antenna, a fake chimney, a kennel for his greyhounds and a room packed with shiny objects from Franklin Mint.

"You can over-capitalize, can't you," Darryl cheerily chirps to a property assessor whose unexpected appearance sparks the central conflict in "The Castle." It's an often hilarious, if occasionally sentimental, comedy hatched by the folks responsible for the acclaimed Australian television series "Frontline" and "The Late Show." The Kerrigan home is being inspected in connection with an expansion of the airport. Darryl's little neighborhood is in the way.

The official's visit is followed by a letter explaining that the property is being "compulsorily acquired." Generous compensation is offered, but Darryl won't budge. "A man's home is his castle," he earnestly explains to an administrative tribunal. "You can't just walk in and steal our homes."

That plea fails, and then the battle begins in earnest.

Co-writer Rob Sitch, making his directing debut, might be accused of patronizing the characters in his film, which is spiked with aptly placed pieces of '70s pop. Sitch and collaborators, though, show more affection than that, charming us with the quirky Kerrigans.

The cast includes eccentric neighbors, a local-yokel attorney (Tiriel Mora) who argues that the airport's actions violate "the vibe" of the constitution, and a retired legal eagle who saves the day. What's not to like?

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