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06/23/2005 Archived Entry: "A review of The Castle"

DARRYL VS. GOLIATH. (A review of The Castle, Rated R for language, 83 minutes, Australia 1997.)

Darryl Kerrigan has a great life. He's thrilled that his family's home is at the end of the Melbourne airport runway where the "big, beautiful machines" fly so close overhead that it almost feels as though they're going to drop on the house. He's delighted to live under the power highlines, which to him symbolize all the greatness of mankind's creations. His porch has the best plastic trim on the block. He's amazed at the glory of every meat loaf his wife cooks. He's even got a daughter who's the first in the family to graduate from "college" -- with a degree in hairdressing.

In fact, the whole Kerrigan family is as loving and as near perfectly content as a family can be.

Until one day they receive notice that their home is being taken by compulsory acquisition (the Australian equivalent of eminent domain) to expand the airport. Their neighbors' homes are being taken, too.

It's all according to law, explains a polite lady bureaucrat. There's an agreement between the federal, state, and county governments and the airport commission that allows it.

"Yeah?" demands Darryl, "Well where's the agreement with Darryl Kerrigan, 3 Highview Crescent, Coolaroo?"

And he sets about to fight for his own home and his neighborhood, absolutely confident that he'll win in court, based solely on ... the law of common sense. The law of justice. You can't throw a man out of his own home, his castle. Everybody knows that's not right.

Darryl -- helped along by the most spectacularly incompetent storefront attorney in Melbourne -- has a few lessons to learn about the justice system and the prospects of one little man fighting against a multi-billion dollar public-private project. But this being comedy, not reality, the Australian justice system and a handful of billionaires have a lot to learn from Darryl and his friends, as well.

The Castle features the kind of deadpan humor that's more likely to induce a wry grin (or sometimes even a wince) than a laugh. It walks a fine line between snidely mocking tasteless, tract-dwelling, working-class folk (hey, these are my people we're talking about here) and admiring this particular bunch of them. And this otherwise PG-quality story is rated R solely because of a few dozen uses of the F-word.

But you'll really find yourself rooting for Darryl, the Kerrigan family, and the residents of Highview Crescent -- and maybe wishing the world worked a little more like it does in this charmingly strange little film.


I discovered The Castle via a recent column by David Boaz at Cato.org.

Posted by Claire @ 12:41 AM CST

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