Kath & Kimderella: Film Review
September 6, Australia
Gina Riley, Jane Turner, Magda Szubanski, Richard E. Grant
Gina Riley and Jane Turner bring their hugely popular TV alter-egos to the big screen in a comedy misfire.
Stripped of its satirical edge and clearly crucial suburban setting, the big-screen extension of cult Australian TV sitcom Kath & Kim is a disappointingly blunt instrument. A low-brow fairytale frolic that transplants the much-loved central characters to a storybook European principality, Kath & Kimderella is a mish-mash of tropes and comedic tics that will prove happy-ever-after only for die-hard fans.
Four hugely successful television series and a feature-length telemovie have made the trashy mother-daughter duo a pop-cultural phenomenon domestically, but anyone unschooled in their world of malapropisms, mispronunciations and gross transgressions of taste is unlikely to be won over by this incoherent production.
Series writers, producers and principal actors Gina Riley and Jane Turner have eternal optimist Kath Day-Knight (Turner) and her desperately selfish prima donna daughter Kim (Riley) pack their bags early. Kath wins a trip to Papilloma, a tiny, bankrupt principality in Italy, and soon they’re leaving behind the fictional Melbourne suburb of Fountain Lakes which, since the series began in 2002, has been the launch pad for their humorous pot-shots at the consumption and conformity of the aspirational classes.
Uprooting TV characters from their established format is rarely a good idea (see Sex and the City 2) and, here, the show’s creators seem to have crammed all their jokes into Kath’s tiny fanny pack.
Allusions to all manner of princess stories, as well as to Jane Eyre and even Danny Kaye’s The Court Jester, are flung about wildly with nary a laugh to be had, while only a glimmer of a plot can be discerned amid the farcical shenanigans and endless parade of bad 1980s fashions.
A fear of flying prevents Kath’s butcher husband Kel (Glenn Robbins) from accompanying her so Kim muscles her way in after ditching her ex-husband Brett (Peter Rowsthorn) and their pageant-princess daughter Epponnee-Rae (Morghyne de Vries.)
Kim’s netball-playing “second best friend” Sharon (Magda Szubanski) also tags along and the trio wind up staying in the palace of Papilloma’s devious monarch, King Javier (Rob Sitch, sporting a luxuriant mane and a Spanish accent.)
As his offsider Alain (Richard E. Grant) huffs and hair-flicks his disapproval, the king sets about trying to seduce Kath, whom he mistakes for a woman of means, while his mask-wearing son Prince Julio (Neighbours’ Erin Mullally) falls for Kim.
The comedy seems ill-conceived and scattergun. Under the direction of the TV series’ regular helmer Ted Emery, the action progresses in fits and starts, although he does make good use of the gorgeous Italian location. Cinematographer David Parker’s camera swoops and glides along the sparkling coastline, in stark contrast to the Melbourne sets used for the interior shots which are – surely deliberately? – creaky and cramped.
The humor of Kath & Kim owed much to Barry Humphries’ acidic skewering of post-war suburban Australian life through his housewife superstar Edna Everage, who appears here in a bizarrely unfunny cameo. Something’s wrong somewhere when Dame Edna fails to fire.
Opens: Australia, Sept 6
Production company: Riley Turner Fillums
Cast: Jane Turner, Gina Riley, Magda Szubanski, Richard E. Grant, Rob Sitch
Director: Ted Emery
Screenwriters: Jane Turner, Gina Riley
Producers: Rick McKenna, Gina Riley, Jane Turner
Executive producers: Rick McKenna, Gina Riley, Jane Turner, Greg Sitch
Co-producer: David Parker
Director of photography: David Parker
Production designer: Penelope Southgate
Costume designer: Kitty Stuckey
Music: Paul Mac
Editors: Steven Robinson, Jane Moran
Sales: Royalty & Distribution Services, Melbourne
No rating, 86 minutes