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“Quirky indie comedy.”  Kabluey practically begs to be described as such, so I figured I’d get that out of the way up front.  The thing is, I’m convinced the film (written and directed by Scott Prendergast) could have been a big studio release.  Not with Prendergast starring, as he does (if we were lucky, the studios would give us Simon Pegg), and there’d be a rewrite to make the comedy somewhat broader.  It is a funky little movie as is,  but the basic premise is sound for something bigger, had things gone that way.

A harried mother (Lisa Kudrow) of two young kids struggles to make ends meet when her husband is deployed for another tour in Iraq.  Out of options, she calls her brother-in-law (Prendergast), who has a social anxiety disorder of your choosing, to help take care of the kids while she works.  The kids don’t exactly take a shine to him at first, threatening to kill him, for example.  And he has no clue how to handle children, so hilarity ensues.  As things fail to progress on that front, he gets pressed into a job where Kudrow works.  The job, of course, is to stand on the side of a two-lane highway no one uses and pass out fliers no one wants.  While wearing a giant blue costume with no eye holes, a poorly-placed zipper, and hands not particularly designed to hold anything.

Prendergast does a good job mining the costume for humor, but I felt like there was more to be done.  Anyway, a mom of upper middle class suburbia (Christine Taylor) happens to pass by and gets the blue guy to perform at her kid’s birthday party.  Where is he revered, marking the point at which Prendergast’s character finally starts down the road to something resembling normal human interaction.

The film is strongest when focusing on the funny blue costume.  Well, and I also think it has something meaningful to say on the effect a spouse overseas can have on a person.  But most of the non-costume subplots seem to fall just a little bit flat, and I think the film might have been better served just going back to the costume joke well.  Granted, that could be because everything is funnier in a mascot uniform.  Of course, that’s also what a big studio release would have done as well, I’d imagine.  Not sure what that says about me.

The film has an interesting supporting cast, with Christine Taylor, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Teri Garr, and Chris Parnell all showing up for a few scenes.  But I was pleasantly surprised by Kudrow, I think the role fits her well.  And impressed with the subtlety of Prendergast’s approach to the role of the loser.

Three Stars

March 2009