After a midday screening of Kath and Kimderella, the author of this blog post attempted to write a review but collapsed in front of his keyboard. An hour and a half later he awoke, woozy and disoriented, the following words appearing on his screen. 

“It’s called the silent killer,” a voice gloomily intones as the camera pans across an empty lounge room, colour saturation scaled right back to give the image a cold and ghostly veneer. This is an odd crowd-warmer for an hour and a half of beer and skittles — make that beer and pavlova — comedy: a public awareness ad about the dangers of carbon monoxide, crowbarred into the running sheet as part of the pre-trailer, pre-movie package, maybe some sort of charity contra deal, and it’s sad, a married couple who lost their kid … no laughing matter.

But the real killer, at least in terms of viewing material — torture by a hundred blank stares, a thousand non-laughs, a chorus of throat clearing and brow wiping — came later, after a bunch of trailers, one for some movie about idiots who get eaten by sharks.

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There is an epically long ad for New Zealand (this thing has got to be four, five minutes, and you feel every bump in the running time, like a 20-year-old amusement park ride with paralysis-generating seats that jolt backwards and forwards) featuring Lara Bingle and narrated by Rhys Darby, who ends it by pleading to “stay at mine. I’ve got a hot tub”. No deal Rhys, we can’t be bought with bubbles and hot water, that ain’t currency unless it’s fitted with some kind of time travelling device and John Cusack is simmering in it, doing that boyish pout he does so well, and even then it’s a tough sell.

I feel for this cinema. Though not the crowd in it, like me, who actually walked up to a counter and asked for a ticket to Kath and Kimderdella. Any reasonable person would agree we deserve whatever we get. If a Saturday midday session turns into pre-lunch masochism, or the roof caves in and the screen buckles under the weight of uber ocker-cringe comedy, we have only ourselves to blame. This time around there’s no remote control, no changing the channel. If it turns out to be a pleasant surprise — which it didn’t, I can now reveal — well, so much the better.

No, in a weird blood rush of empathy I feel for the actual building, the complex, this room, as if it were a real, tangible, living thing. It seems to be putting things off as much as possible, ramming in a heft of ads and mobile phone warnings and trailers and carbon monoxide. This place doesn’t want to play the movie but has no choice. Like me it’s getting all twisted and distracted, delaying the inevitable, which is actually confronting this thing, wilfully reliving Kath and Kimderdella in the memory. A two dimensional nightmare where you wake up and find yourself in a world in which marijuana is illegal and yet the cast and crew freely walk the streets, amongst children and families.

That’s a joke, btw, or at least an attempt at one. It’s as good as anything here, save for the sight of Frank Woodley right near the end doing translations for the hearing impaired next to Rob Sitch in a grey wig, babbling something as a mean Italian king of a small village. He looks like a solarium tanned extra from The Wog Boy 2 and spends the movie trying to seduce Kath (Jane Turner), mistaking her for a wealthy traveller, but she’s there staying in his castle because she won two tickets and Snuggie-clad hubby Kel (Glenn Robbins) is too afraid of flying to come with her. Kath brings her daughter Kim (Gina Riley) and their tubby pal Sharon (Magda Szubanski) tags along, gawking at the scenery and wobbling back and forth like a bobo doll.

In the manner of a sitcom desperately fattening itself into feature length running time and making all the wrong choices along the way, The Craic (1999) director Ted Emery and his writers add a cumbersome attempt at a spoof on fairytale fiction, a king, a prince, a castle, costume balls, etcetera, and the blending of faux exoticism and Aussie suburbia is ghastly, the cinematic equivalent of a jug of GHB infused beer chased by a kick in the face.

Kath and Kim was always adults comedy, right? Intentionally idiotic but reliant on a basic understanding of socio-political structure, class, cultural cringe, and so on — pop culture pocket lint for “glad I’m not them” audiences to pick up and forget about. Now the fairytale element comes along, and it’s conspicuously kiddie but it’s inconceivable that a kid would enjoy this movie. Probably not even the funny voices, an audio kitty litter that sounds like bogan chipmunks and post-throat reconstruction Aussie caste oompa loompas.

There is a scene in which a rotten tomato is hurled at Rob Sitch, and I could have sworn I heard somebody laugh. Indeed I did — the person throwing it, part of the movie, that laugh did sound kind of Dolby enhanced. It’s been an awful year for Sitch, the poor bastard suffering reputation damage inflicted by directing Any Questions For Ben? and now this. In a silly wig he dances to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, and when Glenn Robins shoves a knife sharpener up his nose, I’m just about out for the count.

Kath and Kimderdella is not a comedy, it’s a collection of humiliations, the concept of an audience paying for this stuff delivering the sickest and most potent punchline.

This thing — whatever it is, a movie I guess, technically speaking — ends and I leave the cinema, walk in a funk down the aisle towards the heavenly glow of the exit sign, and I know this walk, experienced it somewhere before. Yes: the walk of shame, the feeling you get after a night at a stranger’s house when you want badly to leave but understand the simple logistics of getting out, that you need to walk down a hallway to reach the door, and basic human interaction on the way seems like the stuff of Kafkaesque nightmare.

Outside the cinema it’s windy and sunny, Pearl Jam’s cover of Last Kiss is playing out of council river-side speakers, and the building breathes a sigh of relief, seemingly comforted by the knowledge that it’s one session, one curtain raise, one carbon monoxide warning, closer to making this all a memory…

Kath and Kimderella’s Australian theatrical release date: September 6, 2012. 

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

Liz
North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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