`The Castle' makes light of its inhabitants

May 21, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

"The Castle" wants to be one of those engaging comedies you can't help but like, a quirky tale about some quirky people who do silly things, yet somehow manage to seem more genuinely human than the rest of us. You know, kind of like "The Full Monty" or "Waking Ned Devine."

Trouble is, "The Castle" makes more fun of its characters than it has fun with them; rather than mix equal parts humor and humanity, this Australian import mocks its characters so broadly that it's more parody than comedy.

And despite its best efforts at tone control, there's nothing really gentle or sympathetic about the treatment of its characters.

The title dwelling is the home of one Daryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton), a relentlessly optimistic tow-truck driver who buys a home alongside an airport, atop a toxic waste dump and underneath a huge electric power line. For most men, such living conditions would be untenable, but to Kerrigan, this serves as home base for his most idyllic existence.

For Kerrigan loves the world and all its inhabitants, especially those that live under his roof. That would include his wife, Sal (Anne Tenney), whose wonderful cooking is a constant source of amazement to her husband (no one rhapsodizes over meatloaf like Daryl Kerrigan).

It also includes his beloved daughter, Tracey (Sophie Lee), the first Kerrigan ever to graduate from college, even if it is only beauty school, and his three sons: inventor Steve (Anthony Simcoe), whose inability to come up with anything practical is considered a minor inconvenience; Wayne (Wayne Hope), who's in jail after getting involved with a robbery, and Dale (Stephen Curry), who's as optimistic as his dad and serves as the film's narrator.

Things go swimmingly for the Kerrigans until the local government decides it needs his property to expand the airport. Daryl determinedly takes a stand; no one is going to take away the Shangri-La he's built for his family without a fight.

"The Castle" has some genuinely sweet moments, and its depiction of a loving family that unquestionably supports one another is a welcome relief from the dysfunctional clans that dominate movie screens these days.

It's also got some genuine laughs and fine performances from Caton and Charles (Bud) Tingwell as the renowned barrister who takes on the Kerrigans' case.

But "The Castle" suffers from wanting it both ways. It laughs at the Kerrigans a little too hard to have us believe it really admires these people as much as it wants us to.

`The Castle' Starring Michael Caton, Anne Tenney and Stephen Curry

Directed by Rob Stitch

Rated R (language)

Running time 85 minutes

Released by Miramax

Sun score ** 1/2

Pub Date: 5/21/99

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