Da Kath N Kim Code Review
Kath & Kim is possibly Australia’s most successful comedic export. Drawing on the cultural reference points of Sylvanian Waters and, of course, Neighbours, its success lies in its universal appreciation of the banality of suburban life. Of course, that this is Australian suburban life serves to make the joke even funnier. It’s television incarnation currently stands at three, largely magnificent, series, and this 90 minute television movie (Broadcast on ABC late 2005) which bridges the gap towards a possible fourth series.
For those not familier with the series, Kath & Kim focuses on the daily trials and tribulations of Katherine Day-Knight (Jane Turner) and her daughter Kim (Gina Riley), who spends most of her time estranged from her hapless husband, Brett (Peter Rowsthorn). Those new to the series would do well to read Anthony Nield’s review of series one which can be found here.
On to the tele-movie, then, and it has to be said that the transition to a longer running time is not a completely qualified success. It’s notoriously difficult to extend something beyond its natural span without losing something along the way, as anyone who saw the excretable Kevin and Perry Go Large would testify. Be assured, however, that ‘Da Kath & Kim Code’ stands head and shoulders above attempts of this ilk. It’s running gag is its main weakness. As astute readers might guess from the title, there is a strong ‘Da Vinci Code’ theme running through this and, to be frank, it doesn’t really work.
Kath & Kim is at its strongest when its working at its most subtle. Its riffs and digs at modern suburban life can be devastatingly cutting at times, but the large, rather obvious ‘Da Vinci Code’ physical gags seem shoehorned in and are at best ignorable and at worst clumsy. Suffice to say, the payoff at the end, despite the guest appearance, does not really reward the viewer and seems out of place in such a series. A good example would be a brief sequence where some characters are playing a ‘GTA’ based game based upon the aforementioned book. We see digitized figures of Kath and Kel and it seems a bit childish and falls rather flat. There’s a sense of 'sit-com over-reach', as though someone was determined to squeeze a ‘GTA: Vatican City’ gag in there at all costs when they’d have been better off leaving it out. In fact, the 'Da Vinci Code' element as a whole feels rather shoe-horned in and leads to a largely unsuccessful climax.
That’s the negative out of the way. There is much about this movie to like, if you’re a fan of the series. Largely, it deals with the arrival of Christmas and the impact it has on the lives of our favorite antipodean suburbanites. Brett has been promoted at the Fountain Gates’ computer store; Kath and Kel (Glenn Robbins) are taking dance lessons and are chosen to perform at ‘Carols By Candlelight’ and Sharon, wonderfully played by Magda Szubansi, thinks she has fallen in love (on the internet, naturally). So far, so familiar in sit com land, but it’s the way these plot lines revolve around each other, and the sharply crafted script that makes the show work.
Its documentary style approach is sharp and extremely well observed. All the regular gags from the series are here, the mispronounced words, the catchphrases and at least one gag from the series is used again. There are guest appearances aplenty, from the likes of Michael Buble and the Wiggles. (Does anyone over the age of 8 find ‘The Wiggles’ anything less than sinister? They’ll chill your blood on here.)
‘Da Kath & Kim Code’ is a worthy watch, if you’re a fan of the series. It doesn’t always work quite as well as it could and, at times, its format creaks under the weight of the additional gravitas they’ve attempted to add. Its basic storyline works well, and is, of course, little more than an extended episode. There’s a major plot line unresolved so it paves the way for a fourth series. Lets hope they don’t completely run out of steam for at its heart, this can be a very cutting and witty satire.
An extremely sharp anamorphically enhanced disc that you won’t have any complaints about. Given its video origins, its as good as you could hope for it to be, without being reference standard. Colours are sharp, natural and vivid.
Only a 2.0 soundtrack but nothing to complain about, really, given its television source. It might have been good to have a full surround soundtrack given some of the atmospheric effects, but you’ll have no real complaints here. It’s vivid, clear and solid.
The "G'day Leonardo" tour (Epilogue)
A short (90 secs) epilogue to the main feature which is a nice thing to have, but doesn’t substantially add to your enjoyment of the film as a whole.
Behind the Scenes (24 mins)
Rather better than the average ‘behind the scenes’ stuff you usually see, purely due to the natural charisma of the actors involved. It contains mostly B-roll footage with the usual talking heads, but The Wiggles, Micheal Buble provide good value for money. Incidentally, watch out for Glenn Robbins steal the show from Buble in this section.
A couple of outtakes. Much corpsing and the like.
Barry Humphries at "the Buckingham"
Mystifying little sequence in which Barry Humphries checks into a motel. One for Barry Humphries completists only, of which there might be some.
Scenes is stretching it a little here, as these vignettes comprise only a few seconds of film that don’t really go anywhere on their own. It’s difficult to see why they were cut, but its good to have them here and some are quite funny.
Kath & Kim & Bert
Hands down the best extra. Kath & Kim, in character, being interviewed on Good Morning Australia which is funny and informative. Filmed just before the third season.
Live in London - Kath & Kim live at Toast Festival
Kath & Kim Wine Tasting
Kath & Kim talk to the BBC
Disc two is a short selection of short promotional films from the BBC that were meant to serve as an introduction to the show when it originally aired on BBC2. Chances are, these have already been seen in some shape or form on some digital channel. There are a couple of scenes filmed from a festival in which K&K indulge in some wine tasting and so on. The whole thing runs for about 30 minutes and doesn’t outstay its welcome. It provides some laughs even if some of it does feel a little redundant. It’s difficult to imagine anyone purchasing this disc would really need an introduction to the main characters, but here it is on the disc anyway. Picture and sound quality here isn’t as polished as disc one but it’s certainly nothing to worry about.
For the devoted Kath & Kim addict, this is a must have title. It doesn't feel quite as satisfying as the single episodes, and doesn't hang together quite so well as it could, but the elements that made the series a hit are intact. The extras, though not extensive, a good and the whole thing makes quite a good package.
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8 out of 10