KATH & KIMDERELLA. Starring Jane Turner, Gina Riley, Magda Szubanski, Peter Rowsthorn, Glenn Robbins, Rob Sitch, and Barry Humphries. Directed by Ted Emery. Rated PG (Mild coarse language and nudity). 86 min.
No matter how one feels towards the iconic TV show of the same name, it goes without question that Kath (Jane Turner) and Kim (Gina Riley) and their entourage have created comedy that is eccentric, coarse, satirical, and kitsch. This movie aims to capitalise on the spirit of the original television series, and has all the main characters in it.
Kath and Kim, their husbands, Kel (Glenn Robbins) and Brett (Peter Rowsthorn), and Kim’s best friend, Sharon (Magda Szubanski) have given us comic moments that make us cringe culturally. One just never judges the antics of Kath and Kim by whether they are believable, credible, or even sane. The comic effect is not unlike the result of experiencing the routines of Barry Humphries, who also happens to be in the movie for no more than sixty seconds. How the various characters behave, makes us think about what really lies behind cultural appearances, and that has implications for ourselves, our social pretensions, and the everyday lives we lead.
In this film version of their life, Kath and Kim win a trip to Europe. Together with Sharon, they travel to Papilloma, which is a principality in Italy that is bankrupt. There, they embark on a merry set of adventures. The tiny principality is ruled by King Javier (Rob Sitch), and he mistakes Kath as a wealthy noblewoman and decides to seduce her. His son sees Kim as a royal princess, and he pursues her ardently as well. Along the way, there are swashbuckling scenes, frantic couplings, embarrassing moments, Kath and Kim appearing in typically tacky outfits, and lots of secret passage-ways. The plot is ridiculous. The adventure of it all runs away with the film, and the movie’s plot lacks coherence.
Riley, Turner and Szubanski wrote the script for the movie, which is directed by the television veteran, Ted Emery, and the movie delivers a heavy dose of episodic, fantasy-type adventures. But nevertheless, the film achieves some social bite, such as Kath arranging table seatings for her daughter’s wedding, wanting to place “Sarah Palin to the right of Genghis Khan”. Like the television series there are single moments of delicious irreverence, such as the royal wedding-party speeches on the balcony of the castle being translated circus-style into sign-language for the deaf, and a reference to being as thin as “Kate Middleton on cortisone”. The result is a fractured whole, but there are good comic moments in-between, and they are helped by a lively script.
Most of the moments in the movie which are comical, involve Kath, Kim and Sharon in characteristic poses, and sayings, and they are supported by an array of eccentric characters, who play other parts. Threaded also throughout the movie are the upper-class snobs, Prue and Trude, who represent Kath and Kim’s alter-egos – people Kath and Kim would like us to believe they wish to be, but we are glad they are not.
Despite the fact that a silly plot takes the film over, there is a certain spirit to the movie that from time to time manages to capture the essence of “Kath and Kim” for the cinema screen. In addition, there are lots of political and social allusions that demonstrate the film’s topical relevance, like side references to “the education revolution”, “the death stare of Julie Bishop”, and “the carbon tax”.
In the final scenes of the movie, Kath and Kim fear that we, like they, are headed for yet another Harry Potter successful series. We know that such pretensions are never going to be fulfilled, but this is a movie that asks us to share in their fun. And for the aficionados of the television series, that is not all that hard to do.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out September 6th 2012.