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By Ron Wells | March 16, 2001

Did you ever have an aunt and uncle who never seemed to get out of the house, and while trapped together in a confined space they kept getting more eccentric and “out there”? Sometimes I think that’s what Australia is like. In Rob Stich’s new film, “The Dish,” we get to meet the fine folks in the rural town of Parkes. It’s a quiet place, indistinguishable from the next, except for that 200-ft radio telescope sitting out in the middle of the fields where the sheep graze. Spearheaded by Parkes’ mayor, the giant dish seemed a little silly until NASA needed someone on the other side of the planet from Houston to handle communications for their Apollo moon missions. It just so happened that the largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere happened to be in Parkes.
The small team of eccentrics running the dish are led by project director Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill) who had recently lost his wife and is a dead ringer for The Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, and NASA specialist Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton). Through a mishap and an act of God, the residents of this quaint little village learn that the Americans are no better or less prone to failure than they are. All you can really do in a crisis is to make your best effort to work through it together.
While “The Dish” is an amiable enough way to spend a couple of hours, it’s not so easy to build tension over what is essentially four guys slaving over some 1960’s era computers and a large, very slow-moving dish. All of the actors and characters are quite likable, but while the original mission that put the first man on the moon is quite memorable, the same probably can’t be said for this film.

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