If this benign Australian comedy recalls the late-’90s spurt of Britcoms about quirky entertainers and their quirkier families, give director Cherie Nowlan credit for tipping more toward Little Voice than Brassed Off. The bubbly sentimentality that marked that microgenre is in full force here, but it’s tempered by some astutely observed family dysfunction.
The clan in question consists of lonely low-rent comedian Jean Dwight (Blethyn), a Pommy transplanted to Kath & Kim–land (suburban Sydney, actually) via a failed marriage, along with her sons Mark (Wilson)—who, in a mercifully underplayed bid for surplus goodwill, is mentally retarded—and shy hunklet Tim (Chittenden). The plot revolves around the latter’s efforts to escape Mum’s emotionally stifling grasp in order to shack up with a new girlfriend (Booth). A variety of kooky loved ones provide background warmth, including the boys’ George Jones–fixated crooner dad (Holden) and a loyal dipso gal pal (Gibney).
What stops Introducing the Dwights from aspirating its own cheeriness? Besides the cast, there’s Keith Thompson’s forcefully humanistic screenplay and Nowlan’s no-nonsense competence, and the fact that a comic soap opera featuring convincingly intractable showbiz losers still has fizz a decade after its pull date.