The Dish

Four scientists, one enormous satellite dish, and the flight of Apollo 11 may not sound like the ingredients of a crowd-pleasing comedy, but that's just what this improbable charmer from Down Under amounts to. Loosely based on actual events, it's set in the small, eastern Australian burg of Parkes, home to a 300-ton radio telescope that was used during that...read more

Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

Four scientists, one enormous satellite dish, and the flight of Apollo 11 may not sound like the ingredients of a crowd-pleasing comedy, but that's just what this improbable charmer from Down Under amounts to. Loosely based on actual events, it's set in the small, eastern Australian burg of Parkes, home to a 300-ton radio telescope that was used during that historic July 1969 week to help NASA maintain continuous radio contact with Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 crew. Standing alone in the middle of a sheep paddock, the Parkes dish was the only telescope in the southern hemisphere powerful enough to receive what at the time surely sounded like some sci-fi fantasy: A live transmission, beamed directly from the moon, of man's first steps on the lunar surface. Manning the dish are one American, hard-nosed NASA rep Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton), and three Australians: Dish master Cliff Burton (Sam Neill), nerdy mathematical engineer Glenn Latham (Tom Long) and Ross "Mitch" Mitchell (Kevin Harrington), a smart-mouthed techie who resents the Yankee intrusion on Aussie territory. Director Rob Sitch (THE CASTLE) and his co-writers take considerable liberties with the facts in the service of dramatic impact: In addition to inventing nearly all the characters and situations, they neglect to mention that the first eight minutes of the moon landing were actually televised via a second dish near Canberra, Australia (a minor quibble, unless you happen to live in Canberra). In any event, the cast is wonderful, the soundtrack features a well-chosen array of bouncy period pop tunes, and Graeme Wood's cinematography makes the most of the stately beauty of the dish itself. The movie's only real false note comes at the very end, when Sitch overplays his hand and tacks on a silly, sentimental coda. You might want to bail the minute the Eagle has landed.

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