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Kabluey (2007)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/16/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/16/2008

A wise man once said that it's not easy to please all of the people all of the time (or something like that). That's true for this website. I try to review as many DVDs and Blu-ray Discs as possible, and I focus on titles which I think will be popular. But, about once a month, I like to bring in a little-known, independent title just to shake things up. Reviewing titles such as August, Miss Conception, and Charlie Bartlett reminds us that there is a world outside of blockbuster movies and popular television series. Today, we take a look at Kabluey, a quirky, slice-of-life film.

As Kabluey opens, we meet Leslie (Lisa Kudrow), a woman who is on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Her husband, who is in the National Guard, has been deployed to Iraq for over 18 months. Leslie is running out of money and she's lost control of her two young sons, Lincoln (Landon Henninger) and Cameron (Cameron Wofford). She needs to go back to work, but she can't afford daycare. During a tearful phone conversation with her mother-in-law, it's suggested that her brother-in-law, Salman (Scott Prendergast) come and help her. Salman arrives and reveals himself to be a penniless, introverted loser. Leslie wastes no time in returning to work and leaving Salman to attempt to wrangle the kids. Leslie then announces that she's found a job for Salman. Told that he's going to be doing maintenance, Salman finds himself wearing a bulbous costume and promoting a nearly defunct company. The anonymity of the ridiculous costume attracts people to Salman and he begins to meet the locals. He also begins to learn more about his own family. Most importantly, he learns about himself.

It wouldn't be a review of an independent film if I didn't say, this is an odd little movie. Kabluey mixes several genres -- it's a slice-of-life movie, but it's also topical and political, and in addition, it contains some slapstick comedy.

The heart of the film is the story of Leslie and her desperate situation. From the outset, she is a haunted character, and it's almost weird to see Lisa Kudrow in role with no humor. She doesn't know when her husband is coming home and she's clearly giving up hope of reaching her children. The other person at the center of the film is Salman. At the outset, Salman seems weird, if not a bit crazy. (See laminating scene.) Clearly Salman is meant to be the film's connection to the audience, but at first, we don't know what to make of him. Writer/director Scott Prendergast plays Salman, as a child-like, wide-eyed innocent who appears to be new at every situation. Once Salman is placed inside the bizarre blue suit (which sort of looks like the mascot of Bic pens), Salman begins to change. It seems that being trapped in the suit helps him to come out of his shell. We also see that there are plenty of characters in the film far stranger than Salman.

The problem with Kabluey is its tone. It borders on being many things -- charming, insightful, poignant -- but it just misses on all counts. The film opens with soundbytes detailing the war in Iraq and this gives the impression that the film is going to have a political message, and it does -- the war is hell on the families left at home -- but this point is always very subtle and in the background. Again, Salman grows as a character as the film progresses, but the audience never gets closer to him. Although he seems happier in the film's second half, he's still quite aloof. Imagine Forrest Gump wearing a giant blue head and that will give you an idea of what Salman is like. (Of course, he's not as funny as Forrest.) The movie also wants to make a point about the way that people treat Salman when he's in the suit and the way in which they spill their darkest secrets when he's around. Except, this message is never very clear. Is Prendergast trying to say that the people are so self-absorbed that they don't notice a giant blue creature in the room, and therefore continue to gossip? The movie is driven further off-course by the David Lynch-like idea that Salman is forced to stand on a lonely country road in order to promote the business.

Despite the problems with the story, I never gave up on Kabluey. If nothing else, the movie must be congratulated for trying something different. This movie falls between the indies where 20-somethings whine about embellished problems and the depressing movies where people have nothing but problems. It's obviously trying too hard to be quirky at times, but it does have spirit. And kudos to Prendergast for assembling a nice stable of interesting and recognizable actors for cameos. The characters in Kabluey may be standoffish, but you'll find that you can love a big, blue guy.

Kabluey suits up for DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. I don't know anything about the making of Kabluey, but the image shows a notable amount of grain. (It may have been shot on something other than 35mm film.) The image is sharp, and the transfer is free from overt defects from the source material, but that grain is hard to ignore. On the plus side, the colors look very good, most notably the blue suit. The landscape shots never look flat and there is no video noise on the image. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provide clear dialogue and sound effects. For a small dramedy, this is a great audio track. As noted above, the film opens with news soundbytes and they come at us in layers from all five main speakers. So, from the first seconds, I was impressed. The movie continues to provide impressive stereo and surround effects throughout, and the in-film music sounds very good.

The Kabluey DVD offers 25 DELETED SCENES which run about 17 minutes. All of these scenes are brief and they are incidental. We get additional shots of the blue suit on the side of the road, but there are no new subplots here.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long