About once a month nowadays, another political drama is released examining the toll being exacted by the war on military veterans and their families. But virtually each of these well-meaning morality plays, from Lions for Lambs to In The Valley of Elah to Stop-Loss has been a heavy-handed, pacifist polemic which hits you over the head with a way too obvious message.
That's why the relatively-lighthearted Kabluey arrives like a breath of fresh air. For this screwball comedy generates plenty of laughter while simultaneously ever so subtly addressing several sobering themes. The charming low-budget ensemble piece is funny enough to be a surprise sleeper with enduring appeal, ala My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Little Miss Sunshine of year's past.
The movie is a semi-autobiographical labor of love written and directed by Scott Prendergrast whose own brother was backdoor drafted into a tour of duty in the Middle East conflict. While his sibling was serving overseas, Scott moved in with his sister-in-law to help her care for her two young sons, a challenging experience which provided both fodder and inspiration for Kabluey.
Here, he co-stars opposite Friends' Lisa Kudrow in her best outing on the big screen since Analyze This. She exhibits her trademark charm and perfect comic timing along with an endearing emotional range in a role intermittently calling for a certain gravitas. The talented cast also includes Terri Garr, Christine Taylor (wife of Ben Stiller) and character actress Conchata Ferrell.
The story revolves around emotionally and financially challenged Leslie (Kudrow) who has stoically been trying to hold down the fort since her husband Noah's (Phil Thoden) National Guard unit shipped out to Iraq. Between working full-time and raising their two boys (Cameron Wofford and Landon Henninger) alone, the frazzled mom barely has any downtime to relax, let alone worry about Noah's safety.
The sort of help she doesn't exactly need arrives when her unemployed brother-in-law, Salman (Prendergrast), shows up in Austin needing a place to crash, having recently been fired from an entry-level position as a clerk at a copy store several states away in Nevada. He proves to be so pathetic as a babysitter, that Leslie orders him out of the house only to relent when he says he's broke and that his credit cards are maxed out.
Instead, she finds him a job at her real estate company as its corporate mascot, Kabluey. And much of the ensuing slapstick emanates from his interacting with strangers while standing on the street passing out flyers at the height of summer in a heat-seeking baby blue outfit covering him from head to toe. Meanwhile, there is a disarming darkness and depth to Leslie's character, whose evolution hints at the plausible plight of countless similarly-situated Army wives in real life. A worthwhile ’melan-comedy’ (a term coined by Prendergast) which delivers a feminist statement merely by questioning the conventional patriotic wisdom that all wars are fought for God, mom and apple pie.