In “Kabluey,” Scott Prendergast plays a thirtysomething outsider whose life seems to be a series of one way streets and turn only lanes. He’s going pretty much the only way he can go, but is a bit alarmed by where it’s taking him. After losing a job at a copy center because he couldn’t stop laminating, he moves across the country to help his sister-in-law, Lisa Kudrow, with her terrible kids. Kudrow’s husband is in Iraq, and she looks about to snap.
But just when “Kabluey” looks like it’s going to be an indie, postmodern “Charles in Charge,” it takes a big blue left turn. Prendergast is completely inept with the children who, to his credit, are homicidal, hyperactive maniacs. Kudrow finds him a part-time job, which will help her afford more competent childcare. Unfortunately, the job is wearing a blue mascot costume with a giant head and handing out flyers in a cornfield.
Prendergast gets a lot of comedic mileage out of the blue suit. The costume head is giant and always seems to be hanging; he’s supposed to be the bright and energetic logo for a dot-com company, but the way his head hangs, intead he’s the perfect mascot for the dot-com bust. He can’t get in or out of the suit without help, and his tender is a bit absent-minded, if she has a mind at all. It doesn’t have hands, so “handing out” the flyers is an impossibility. Actually, that’s ok, because there’s no one to hand out flyers to anyway. He’s dumped along the highway outside the business campus and left there all day. Cars whizz by, including one driven by Teri Garr, who lost her lifesavings during the bust. She’s not a friendly driver.
“Kabluey” could play pretty broad, but instead goes for something a bit more subtle and interesting. A highway cleanup crew comes by, and if this were a Will Ferrell movie, they’d just beat him up, and we’d laugh. Instead, they give him a beer, and the comedy that ensues as he tries to enjoy it is far better than physical violence.
He becomes a legend among the neighborhood children, who don’t really know what he is or what he does –actually, nobody knows – but love him anyway. And he discovers the costume is an alter ego. People act like he’s invisible, which is really nothing new for him, but now he can take the costume off and use what he’s overheard to help his friends and family. This, naturally, leads to the resolution of his problems and the happy ending, which doesn’t really matter.
This movie is clearly a very personal project for Prendergast, who wrote, directed as well as starred; on top of that, he’s mentioned in interviews that it’s based on his own experiences. As such, it can feel claustrophobic at times. And it’s hard to categorize; it’s really a movie unlike any other. Prendergast got really lucky when Lisa Kudrow signed on. Watching Kudrow play an exhausted, desperate and irritable war bride was a small surprise after her many years as the spacy Phoebe on “Friends,” and the various riffs on that she’s played in other movies; this character is light years away from that one, and this sitcom actor actually shows that she has some range.
“Kabluey” is like a time capsule, so much of it speaks so directly and precisely to this point in time in America. Prendergast’s the mascot for a dot-com company that went bust right after they bought a giant campus surrounded by corn and cows. This is a familiar and funny image to you and me, but I wonder if our kids would understand. At the same time, it captures brilliantly a certain “feeling of the times” from the last few years – a sense of exhaustion, desperation, and nostalgia for that optimism we used to have and are still living with the consequences of. We thought we could win this war quickly. We thought we could fill this campus with computer engineers. And now here we are… maybe this movie is worth preserving just as a time capsule would be, so that our kids can experience for themselves what it was like to live at the dawn of the millennium.
- if your friends tell you that you have an odd sense of humor
- if you’ve ever worn a costume to do a job
- if you’re interested in a depiction of a certain feeling of this time and place
- to war brides with kids at home
- to fans of laugh tracks
- to anyone who lost their life savings to the dot com bust