ninth symphony films - movie reviews

THE DISH (2001)

DIRECTOR  -  rob sitch

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  101 minutes

RELEASED  -  18 march 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  the dish

the dish - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the dish at

buy the dvd from the dish at

in the days before the infamous july 19, 1969 space mission that marked humankind's first steps on the moon, nasa was working with a group of australian technicians who had agreed to rig up a satellite interface...

this movie is actually based on a true story, the name of the real director of the parkes antenna was dr. john bolton.


picture from the dish

picture from the dish

picture from the dish


three out of four possible stars

Depending on what kind of mood you're in, at first glance, you might think this film is about sheep and satellite dish. But on closer inspection you'll find a sweet comedy which puts to rest that burning question: where in the world did that picture of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon come from? This movie stars a host of Australian and Kiwi actors and a few Americans who play the people responsible for getting that film of the first moonwalk shown live all over the world. Somewhere in the middle of Australia a giant dish was built for this purpose and other joint Nasa communications.

And on the payroll at the dish were a few smart yet under appreciated people who clashed with American opinions on the space program. This film serves mainly as a forum for some humorous situations in which the Aussies and the Yanks find themselves when their cultures collide during a few tense weeks before the moon landing. It has been said that Britain and the United States are two countries seperated by a common language. You could probably stick australia into that boat as well. You've got to have a good handle on the English language to understand some of what Australians say in their films, but in The Dish, it sounded as if the actors toned down their accents a bit.

And it helped that Sam Neill's character of "Cliff Buxton" had that subtle New Zealand twist on the English language that made me glad I wasn't watching a drunk version of Crocodile Dundee. have you ever seen some of those australian imports? You practically need a translator to understand some of the stuff. Most of the time, Australian films are considered imports, but this film has enough American influence to make it a good example of a multi-cultural film. Americans probably won't get every single joke, I'm sure the Australians placed a few laughs in there only somebody familiar with the country would understand, but they did a good job of dispelling some of the rumors that everyone in Australia wrestles crocodiles.

I'd also like to comment on this film's innocent comedy. it was remarkably free of the kind of crass humor found in most comedies today, and yet it was still entertaining. A good example of what a filmmaker can acomplish when not using the kind of humor that's free of fart jokes and beer bellies. And just because a film doesn't include these time-honored elements doesn't mean it's not funny to the young set. Although not usually laugh-out-loud funny, this film does have a good nack for leaving you with the giggles or a smile on your face. And by the end, it gets downright weepy. But what else can you expect from a story that includes the landing on the moon?

Speaking of that big ball of cheese, this subject was a good backdrop for the differences in Americans and Australians to be discussed. The film made it clear that the Australians kind of resented, at first, being told what to do by the Americans. In particular, by the American character of "Al Burnett," played by Patrick Warburton, who's sent to the Australia to make sure that the country bumpkins don't mess up the job. And while the Aussies don't like the American's influence, neither does the American appreciate what they can bring to the Nasa project. Of course, in the end, both sides begin to respect their adversaries and the two groups combine to create a good amount of brainpower, therefore showing that two heads are better than one.

It's nice even to see some comraderie between the characters, since today there exists a certain amount of resentment over the Vietnam war by the Australians. For about twenty minutes at the end of the film, the awe of the moonlanding takes over and the differences between the two cultures melt away for a few moments while they all just become human, instead of having a specific nationality. Does that sound a little bit profound? Well, I think it's supposed to, given the ideas thrown around in this film. The moon landing was a great event for human kind, not just American kind. And even if the first person on the moon wasn't an Australian, it's fun to note that they were partly responsible for bringing the world together, if only for a few minutes.

This film has a big heart and good intentions that give it an honest edge and some uniqueness in comparison to much of the comedic films out there. Probably my one and only criticism for this film would be that the comedy was sometimes too light and the drama was sometimes too light as well. The conflict was not always played to its full potential. Perhaps, being American, i missed some of the comedy (though i pride myself on having seen way too many Australian films), but I thought that the novelty of the "look how the Americans laugh at the funny Australians" bit wore a little thin at times. That's not to say that the wry sense of humor always present in australian films wasn't enjoyable.

For the most part, this film was just enjoyable and not anything near life-changing. This was probably helped by the fact that this film clocks in at just over an hour and forty minutes. And that's with the credits. This time is a good length for a comedy and a good length for this movie. If they'd tried to stretch it out into a two hour bohemeth, the aura of the moon-landing would have probably faded completely away. But, as it was, this film was about a hundred minutes of comedy and a little bit of drama that covered an interesting subject. Quite a nice little film. Oh, and kudos to the marketing team who thought up this tagline: 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).

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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