“Quirky” and “deadpan” have been staples of the Amerindie diet since Jim Jarmusch first surfaced, but as many a film has proved, they can’t float a feature alone. Such is the case with “Kabluey,” a studiously oddball comedy starring, written and directed by Scott Prendergast, who plays a classic adult-child misfit looking after his sister-in-law’s unruly children. If that sounds like Adam Sandler terrain, rest assured that “Kabluey” is short on the cutes and ca-ca jokes. But it’s also short on substance, despite a watchable supporting cast and an amiable overall tenor. Pic might win a modest following in ancillary.
Salman (Prendergast) is a socially inept 32-year-old who can’t hold a job. Nonetheless, he’s summoned to stay with Leslie (Lisa Kudrow), who’s in no position to be choosy. Her husband has been away on National Guard duty in Iraq for 18 months, during which time bills have piled up, their two young sons have become rampaging hellions and Leslie has gotten thisclose to a nervous breakdown.
But the brats finally show Salman some respect once they see him in the titular figure’s giant puffy suit. It’s the bizarre trademark for a vast, largely empty new office complex, and Salman has been hired to spend days in the sweltering costume, hopefully attracting potential renters. Sight of Prendergast in this sub-Smurf garb is pic’s main joke; whether auds find it funny for 90 minutes or five seconds will determine their enjoyment of “Kabluey.”
Pic is crisply designed and directed, but feels like a short’s worth of droll ideas thinly stretched out to feature length.
Christine Taylor, Chris Parnell, Conchata Ferrell and others occasionally amuse in one-dimensional parts; it’s not even clear who Teri Garr’s character is supposed to be. There’s nothing undernourished, however, about Kudrow’s barbed, full-blooded performance as one non-campily desperate housewife.