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The Castle

June 1, 1999
by Dan Lybarger
Originally appeared in Pitch Weekly. ........................................................................................................

Australian tow truck driver Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton) is the happiest fellow on earth. He might live in a small house with tacky furniture, near a huge overhead power line and a noisy airport, but as far as he's concerned, it's heaven. The lines are a sign of technological progress and the planes are "beautiful machines."

He's proud of his wife Sal (Anne Tenney), whose mundane dishes (such as cake with icing) seem exotic to Darryl. His son Steve (Anthony Simcoe) creates dozens of useless inventions (like a motorcycle helmet with brake lights) and will buy an impractical item as long as it's on sale. His other boy Wayne (Wayne Hope) is about to be released from jail. However, Darryl's pride and joy is his daughter Tracy (Sophie Lee). She's the first in her family to go to college. She's now a fully qualified hairdresser.

If the Kerrigan's goals and achievements are modest, their situation is blissful. The bliss ends when the airport decides to annex the homes neighboring the property. All of the houses will be bulldozed and the residents forced to move. While most might welcome the move, Darryl and his neighbors try to fight it. Their only ally is an under-qualified lawyer (Tiriel Mora). Their quest may be futile and even a bit silly, but when paradise is at stake, they will stop at nothing.

The Kerrigan's quest could have been treated as a bit of derision toward blue collar values. Fortunately, director Rob Sitch takes an affectionate view toward his characters. He pokes fun at the Kerrigan's lack of taste (Darryl's prized pool room is full of silly trophies and trinkets like a samurai sword letter opener), but he still celebrates their individuality and their love for each other. As the movie progresses, their mad and often hilarious battle against a faceless corporation becomes more compelling. Because all they want is to live where they choose, it's easy to identify with them.

The Cast of The Castle

The cast of The Castle.
1999 Miramax Films, used by permission.

The cast may be unknown on this side of the Pacific, but they are terrific. Caton is a standout because he projects a contagious enthusiasm. Stephen Curry (who plays Darryl's son Dale) delivers hilariously banal observations during the film's voice-over. In addition, the cheap look of the film is an added bonus. It makes the David vs. Goliath themes of the movie seem more genuine. The Castle walks a fine line between satire and celebration. Because Sitch maintains the proper balance, the film deserves serious recognition or at least a prominent spot in Darryl's pool room. (R)

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