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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
THE CASTLE Showcases Aussie Humor
by Betty Jo Tucker

Every once in a while, a small film comes along that puts big budget movies to shame. Australia’s The Castle, shot in 11 days for less than a million dollars, is that kind of film. Rob Sitch, who served as director and helped write the script, says, "When we won the Audience Award from Africa’s Zimbabwe Film Festival, we knew our movie was not just for Australians. The unbelievable charm of it sneaks up on everyone."

In a telephone interview during Sitch’s U.S. press tour, he explained, "We wanted to do a comedy about happy families. It seems lately laws must have been passed against films about them." After seeing so many movies about dysfunctional families, viewers are in for a treat as they watch Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton) struggle to save his family’s ramshackle house from being taken over by airport expansionists. And what a family! Darryl himself may be the most upbeat, positive father ever depicted on film. He even compliments his wife’s cooking at each meal in hilarious scenes based on Sitch’s own father. "He did the same thing every night!" the filmmaker declared.

Darryl’s wife (Anne Tenney) spends her time with "crafts," making ridiculous doo-dads her husband thinks are amazing. "The couple’s grown children, eccentric in their own way, care deeply about their parents and each other --- even the son in jail for armed robbery," said Sitch.

A member of Australia’s famous Working Dog creative team, Sitch modestly claims he is not necessarily the best director of the bunch. "The five of us have been working together on television shows for 12 years, and we all write and all direct, but I was selected this time because we only had 11 days to shoot and I’m the fastest worker," he admitted.

According to Sitch, the most difficult scene to film in The Castle involved presentation of the Kerrigan case to the High Court of Australia. "It’s ironic this judicial body is called the people’s court but no filming is allowed there," he complained. "We took a long time writing this key scene. After the film was released, we received a message from the High Court notifying us that the judges were reserving any decision concerning the case. At least they have a sense of humor," quipped Sitch.

Sitch, who earned a medical degree, knows quite a bit about humor. (Imagine a bizarro Patch Adams -- and you'll have some notion of Sitch's quirky attitude.) He and his Working Dog colleagues met while putting on comedy sketches 16 years ago at the University of Melbourne. They went on to win accolades in Australian television for such groundbreaking satirical shows as The Late Show and Frontline. With The Castle, their first movie venture, these talented Aussies have presented a gift of heartwarming laughter to viewers throughout the world.

(Released by Miramax and rated "R" for language.)

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