×
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.

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

  • James Marsden attends the 2019 MOCA

    New Abortion Ban Laws Take Center Stage at MOCA Gala

    Forty years ago in Los Angeles, the decision to invest millions in a museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art — not to mention its formerly desolate downtown location, where the vibe was more apocalyptic than artsy — was a risky proposition. But now that the city’s cultural heart has shifted south of Hollywood, it seems [...]

  • Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment,

    Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment, Imprisonment for Trump, Says Maybe Al Pacino Should Lead Instead

    Robert De Niro honored Al Pacino, his longtime friend and four-time collaborator (with Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film “The Irishman” marking their latest pairing), at the American Icon Awards, and then called for a different type of tribute for President Donald Trump — “impeachment and imprisonment.” “You didn’t think you were going to completely get away without [...]

  • Millie Bobby Brown on Her Feature

    Millie Bobby Brown Calls Her Film Debut in 'Godzilla' 'Kind of Unreal'

    Millie Bobby Brown is no stranger to stardom thanks to “Stranger Things,” but she still can’t believe she’s making her feature film debut in the monster reboot “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” “It’s kind of unreal,” Brown told Variety at the premiere. “I’m like, ‘What is happening right now?’ It’s so bizarre and unreal, and [...]

  • CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Robert

    Robert Pattinson Helps HFPA Donate $500,000 to Refugee Organization at Cannes Event

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association proved in Cannes Sunday night that the Golden Globes aren’t the only festive bash it can pull off each year. At the glamorous Nikki Beach party held in association with Participant Media, the HFPA donated $500,000 to international aid organization Help Refugees. Co-hosts Robert Pattinson and Helen Mirren along with Quentin [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Alexis Martin Woodall, Ryan

    Peabody Winners Talk Empowered Women and Social Justice Challenges on Red Carpet

    The theme on the red carpet at the 78th annual Peabody Awards? Empowering women. On Saturday, Peabody winners gathered at Cipriani Wall Street, and one of the hot topics on everyone’s mind was the wave of female empowerment spreading across the industry. From Peabody’s Career Achievement Award recipient Rita Moreno to shows like ‘Killing Eve’ [...]

  • CAP D'ANTIBES, FRANCE - MAY 18:

    Cannes: Robert Pattinson, Shailene Woodley Attend Starry Vanity Fair Party

    It’s true what they say about Batman being a loner. On Saturday night, Robert Pattinson made his first public appearance since being cast as the new Dark Knight at this year’s Vanity Fair Party at the Cannes Film Festival. But while all the other A-list guests mingled and worked the crowd at the restaurant of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content