×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mental

"Mental" packs enough lowbrow laughs to scrape by as a crowdpleaser for undiscriminating auds.

With:
With: Toni Collette, Liev Schreiber, Anthony LaPaglia, Rebecca Gibney, Kerry Fox, Caroline Goodall, Deborah Mailman, Lily Sullivan, Sam Clark, Hayley Magnus, Malorie O'Neill, Nicole Freeman, Chelsea Bennett, Bethany Whitmore, Holly Buchanan.

Cut from virtually the same autobiographical cloth as “Muriel’s Wedding,” but stitched with a far more jagged hand and encased in an even colder heart, “Mental” reps a mediocre return to grotesque Australian suburban comedy by scripter-helmer P.J. Hogan. Toplining “Muriel” star Toni Collette as a tough-as-nails stranger who becomes a life-changing nanny to the five daughters of a dysfunctional family, the pic packs enough lowbrow laughs to scrape by as a crowdpleaser for undiscriminating auds. World-preemed as the Melbourne fest’s closer, “Mental” should perform OK on its Oz release Oct. 4, but looks unlikely to generate much offshore excitement.

Pic’s U.K. rollout is skedded for Dec. 7; North American release details are pending.

Dressed like a cross between a hippie and a hooker, Shaz (Collette) is plucked from the street by Barry Moochmore (Anthony LaPaglia), the mayor of Queensland coastal town Dolphin Heads. Barry needs a nanny for his children pronto after having placed his mentally unbalanced wife, Shirley (Rebecca Gibney), in psychiatric care.

A cheating rat and uncaring father who can’t put the right names to the faces of his daughters Coral (Lily Sullivan), Jane (Bethany Whitmore), Michelle (Malorie O’Neill), Leanne (Nicole Freeman) and Kayleen (Chelsea Bennett), Barry dumps a willing Shaz in the middle of his chaotic house and disappears for long stretches.

Making an amusing first impression as a bong-smoking nanny with a long-bladed knife tucked into her boots, Shaz immediately discovers Shirley’s mental problems have rubbed off profoundly on the girls, each of whom proudly claims to be suffering from her own particular affliction.

Shaz’s answer, and the film’s comic raison d’etre, is to blame the crushing forces of conformity surrounding the Moochmore girls, and become their mental-health therapist. To that end, Shaz launches a fitfully funny campaign to expose the hypocrisy of easy targets, including clean-freak neighbor Nancy (Kerry Fox) and Shirley’s jealous sister, Doris (Caroline Goodall), whose hobby is making creepy life-size dolls of children.

Hogan knows how to stage physical comedy, and dares auds to laugh at scenes such as Shaz and the girls menstruating in unison on Nancy’s white couch. But much of the humor is driven by a savage near-hatred of everything suburban, which frequently undermines its own effectiveness, and poses a barrier to auds engaging emotionally with the central character and the wounded youngsters she’s taken under her wing.

Little seen in the pic’s first half, second-billed Liev Schreiber features prominently in the later stages as Trevor, a rough-hewn Aussie shark hunter and amusement-park operator who shares a dark past with Shaz. Just about the only down-to-earth character in a gallery of grotesques, Trevor brings a much-needed shot of reality to the proceedings prior to an unwieldy finale involving his prize display and a musical number.

Donald M. McAlpine’s widescreen photography of candy-colored costumes and production design is first-class. The rest of the technical package is on the money.

Popular on Variety

Mental

U.S.-Australia

Production: A Universal (in Australia/U.K.) release of a Screen Australia presentation of a Zucker Prods., Story Bridge Films production in association with Screen Queensland, Screen NSW. (International sales: Arclight Films, Sydney.) Produced by Janet Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Todd Fellman, Jocelyn Moorehouse. Executive producers, Gary Hamilton, Bryce Menzies, Lee Soon Kie. Co-producer, Sean Gesell. Co-executive producers, Roger Savage, Jill Bilcock. Directed, written by P.J. Hogan.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Donald M. McAlpine; editor, Jill Bilcock; music, Michael Yezerski; executive music supervisor, Bonnie Greenberg; music supervisors, Bernard Galbally, Jane Jacob, production designer, Graham 'Grace' Walker; art director, Richard Hobbs; costume designer, Tim Chappel; sound (Dolby Digital), Roger Savage, Chris Goodes; visual effects, Robot; stunt coordinator, Chris Anderson; line producer, Yvonne Collins; associate executive producer, John Sim; assistant director, Phil Jones; second unit camera, Ben Nott; casting, Christine King. Reviewed at Melbourne Film Festival (closer), Aug. 18, 2012. Running time: 116 MIN.

Cast: With: Toni Collette, Liev Schreiber, Anthony LaPaglia, Rebecca Gibney, Kerry Fox, Caroline Goodall, Deborah Mailman, Lily Sullivan, Sam Clark, Hayley Magnus, Malorie O'Neill, Nicole Freeman, Chelsea Bennett, Bethany Whitmore, Holly Buchanan.

More Scene

  • US record producer The-Dream arrives for

    Top Music Publishers Come Together for Songs of Hope Honors

    The 15th annual Songs of Hope honors united songwriters, music industry insiders and more than a few preeminent doctors at producer Alex Da Kid’s Sherman Oaks compound on Thursday night. Jimmy Jam returned to host the event, which served as a fundraiser for the ever-vital City of Hope medical treatment center as well as a [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Keke Palmer BlogHer19 Summit

    Keke Palmer Brought to Tears Accepting Truth Teller Award at #BlogHer19 Creators Summit

    Keke Palmer stood surprised and wide-mouthed on the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit stage as she was presented with the Truth Teller Award for her recent acting work — and her viral “sorry to this man” clip. “This means so much,” the multi-hyphenated star softly whispered as she got teary-eyed upon accepting the award. Last week, the [...]

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19:

    Emmys 2019: Inside All the Hottest Pre-Parties

    It’s (Emmys) party time! Before the 71st annual Emmys go live on Sunday, stars and execs are keeping busy by party-hopping in the days leading up to the big show. Here, Variety gives you the inside details on who was where and what they were doing. Keep checking back right here throughout the weekend for [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Green Dress

    Jennifer Lopez Closes Out Versace Show in Famous Green Grammys Dress

    Jennifer Lopez has found her way back into the Versace dress that broke the internet in 2000. The “Hustlers” star closed out Versace’s Spring 2020 show in a re-worked version of the revealing, bright green silk chiffon dress that she wore to the Grammy Awards 20 years ago. The dress quickly became a pop-culture phenomenon, [...]

  • 10 Storytellers to Watch

    Variety Celebrates Inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch Event

    Storytellers from across the spectrum of entertainment — film, literature, podcasting and play writing — were honored Thursday at Variety’s inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch luncheon at Gramercy Park Hotel, hosted with partner the Independent Filmmaker Project and presented by Audible. Honorees Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of “Friday Black”; “Limetown” podcasters Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie; [...]

  • Demi Moore Corporate Animals

    Demi Moore Teases Upcoming Memoir 'Inside Out,' Talks 'Corporate Animals' Team Bonding

    As Demi Moore gears up for the Sept. 24 release of her autobiography “Inside Out,” the actress says she feels like a weight has been lifted. “Even the stuff that I may have been nervous about is completely lifting…because it’s a process,” Moore told Variety at the premiere of her upcoming film “Corporate Animals” at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content