Directed by Scott Prendergast. Starring Lisa Kudrow, Scott Prendergast, Teri Garr, Chistine Taylor, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Parnell, Conchata Ferrell, Angela Sarafyan. (2008, PG-13, 86 min.)
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., July 25, 2008
Consider Kabluey a litmus test to administer to your friends and family members, a line in the sand between one view of life and another, an at-long-last, all-in assessment of just what kind of people you’ve been spending your time with. Those who fall in love with its oddball tale of disheveled thirtysomething Salman (Prendergast) – a schlemiel who loses his job at a copy store after laminating everything in sight and then moves in with his despondent sister-in-law, Leslie (Kudrow), whose husband, a National Guardsman, is stuck in Iraq and whose two young sons are devil children who pass the time howling at the top of their lungs and destroying things with hammers – are what might be called “lovers of all things quirky” … and probably aren’t to be trusted. Indifferent to character, they’ll revel in idiosyncrasies; rejecting emotion, they’ll pine for sweetness; unmoved by story, they’ll satisfy themselves with endearing peccadilloes and eclectic gestures and meticulous, melancholy set-pieces, accompanied by a soundtrack of easy, yet ironic, nostalgia (in this case, the theme music from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure). They’ll find Salman’s woeful parading around an empty cornfield in a giant, faceless, baby-blue Internet-company-mascot costume passing out fliers for $7 an hour adorable and hilarious and touching, but they won’t be able to explain why an Internet company would pay a man to pass out fliers in an empty cornfield. Because the explanation is beside the point. Because the explanation is there is no explanation – beyond the simple fact that Prendergast thought it would make for an engaging image. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that blue suit in that open field was the whole inspiration behind Kabluey and that from there Prendergast inched outward to the story of a depressed military wife collapsing under the bone-rattling screams of her two awful spawns and an ever-growing mountain of bills, in order to avoid accusations of avant-gardism and absurdity. As a consequence, his film gets stuck between two worlds, not really part of either. In one telling scene, Leslie’s little angels try to murder their intruding uncle by pouring drain cleaner down his throat while he’s sleeping … which might have had some emotional (or at least Shakespearean) resonance had Salman actually responded with anything resembling anger or disbelief – anything vaguely human, that is. Instead he lies back and takes it like Buster Keaton after an overdose of Nebutal (more dead than deadpan), and the movie continues on as it was, quirky and undisturbed, unaffected and unaffecting.