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Dustin Putman

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Kabluey  (2008)
3 Stars
Directed by Scott Prendergast.
Cast: Scott Prendergast, Lisa Kudrow, Landon Henninger, Cameron Wofford, Conchata Ferrell, Angela Sarafyan, Christine Taylor, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patricia Buckley, Teri Garr, Chris Parnell, Katherine Willis.
2008 – 86 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for some sexual material and brief strong language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 15, 2008.
"Kabluey" is an odd little bird, but odd little birds, like the rest of them, can still be gentle, affectionate creatures. Written and directed by Scott Prendergast in his feature film debut, this bittersweet comedy, mixing broad physical humor with oftentimes dark and satirical real-life truths, could make for a pleasing antidote to audiences tired of the summer movie blockbuster season. They'll have to search for it in theaters, though; at this date in June of 2008, it is currently only set to open in a few major cities (New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco) throughout July and August before heading to a hopefully well-distributed ancillary market.

With her husband off fighting in Iraq, harried mother Leslie (Lisa Kudrow) is in desperate need of a helping hand as she returns to work. Her only option is directionless brother-in-law Salman (Scott Prendergast), who, in return, could use a place to stay. He soon discovers that caring for children—in this case, out-of-control nephews Lincoln (Landon Henninger) and Cameron (Cameron Wofford)—is far more work than he could have imagined. With the daily grind of babysitting clearly pleasing no one, Leslie arranges for Salman to take on a part-time position at the struggling dot-com company she works for called Blunexion. The job is simple in theory—he must stand along the roadside in a faceless blue mascot costume and hand out flyers to anyone who might be interested in leasing building space—but it soon presents him with an unforeseen advantage. With no one able to recognize him under the suit, he is able to have a front-row look into the decidedly eye-opening lives of the suburban town's citizens.

"Kabluey" is offbeat (a plus) and uneven (a negative), but the film, obviously shot on a limited budget, gradually maneuvers itself into the audience's graces. The scenes of Salman standing by the road, stumped by the suffocating constraints of the mascot uniform and observing the diverse passersby, is like a return to the silent film format, where the smallest of actions required the grandest of gestures and inferences. Some of it is quite amusing, as when he is faced with the daunting task of opening a can of beer without the help of free fingers, and Conchata Ferrell (2002's "Mr. Deeds" and TV's "Two and a Half Men") is an absolute gas as Kathleen, Salman's foul-mouthed, chain-smoking employer.

A little of this hijinks admittedly does go a long way before repetition sets in, and it is the material surrounding these interludes where the film really takes hold. While the bulk of "Kabluey" is silly in tone, writer-director-star Scott Prendergast has a lot to say about the thanklessness of dead-end jobs, the hypocrisies within human nature, and the desolate, even sad, lifestyles of corporate workers. Prendergast is perhaps a better filmmaker than he is an actor—despite being the lead, his role is a largely quiet and reactionary one—but beneath that exterior lies a rather touching, down-on-his-luck character who, at least for a short time, finds a purpose that he can take pride in. As Lincoln and Cameron warm up to Salman, he, in turn, begins to understand what it must be like for Leslie, lonely and in need of a connection as her beloved husband's tour of duty stretches beyond what she was prepared for.

Lisa Kudrow (2005's "Happy Endings") is an overlooked actor of unwavering depth, her ability to slide undetected between comedy and drama staggering—her performance as Valerie Cherish on HBO's prematurely canceled series "The Comeback" was sheer brilliance, for example. As the confused and overextended Leslie, Kudrow continues her strong work in a part that is a far cry from her ten-year stint on TV's "Friends." Her scenes late in the film are especially potent, the seriousness of her character's plight and ultimate arc a real asset to the movie's conclusion. Many of the other recognizable faces showing up, from Christine Taylor (2007's "License to Wed") as a materialistic soccer mom to Jeffrey Dean Morgan (2007's "P.S. I Love You") as a lecherous Blunexion employee, serve their purpose without exceeding one note. As for Teri Garr (2006's "Unaccompanied Minors"), her bizarre supporting role as a woman horrified by the blue man along the road should have probably been excised.

From afar, "Kabluey" might look like a slapstick-heavy farce with a premise stretched thin. It is much more than that, however, even with its budgetary shortcomings and indie feel. The final few scenes are terrific, sending things off on a part-poignant, part-whimsical high note that smartly chooses to not tie everything up in a perfect bow. Where Salman is headed at the end of the film is unknown, but that's not the point. Where he has been, and what he has done for Leslie and the kids, is what's important. That writer-director Scott Prendergast recognizes this is proof that he knew what he was doing all along. "Kabluey" is an affecting, noble-hearted charmer.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman