The problem with Introducing the Dwights is that there are four, maybe five, storylines concerning a small number of characters in only an hour-and-40-minute movie.
Introducing the Dwights focuses on the somewhat atypical Dwight family. Jean (Brenda Blethyn) is the mother and a struggling stand-up comic who has raised her two boys essentially alone. Tim (Khan Chittenden) escorts his mother to and from each gig and probably has since before he was old enough to drive. Jean's other son, Mark (Richard Wilson), was brain damaged at birth and has cerebral palsy, but that doesn't stop him from enjoying life: playing with dogs and watching his cheerleading videos. The family has their routines perfected and roles down pat, and that is exactly the way Jean wants it.
A wrench gets thrown in the gears when Tim meets and quickly becomes close to Jill (Emma Booth). The two begin dating and it soon becomes clear that Jean wants Jill to have nothing to do with her family's world; if she's not ignoring Jill completely, she's making it a point to call her by the wrong name.
The problem with Introducing the Dwights, or as it was released in its native Australia, Clubland, is that there are four, maybe five, storylines concerning a small number of characters in only an hour-and-40-minute movie. What could have amounted to several much better and more complete films ends up being one mess lacking any one satisfying conclusion.
It would be very interesting to watch a movie about two aging mediocre entertainers, Jean and her ex-husband John (Frankie J. Holden), the boys' father, find out there is more to life than performing and then finally finding each other again. Here, that is just one of the many subplots that becomes a distraction for the audience. Mark is a wonderful character played brilliantly by the young Wilson, who spent a week in a disability home to prepare for the role. What is his life like always seeing his mother get positive attention and his younger brother being able to live totally independent from his mom? There are simply too many stories screaming for attention and none of them get the screen time they deserve.
As previously stated, Wilson gives the film's strongest performance. He makes Mark engaging and funny because of his personality, not because of his disability. As Jean, Blethyn creates an infuriating matriarch who is at one time too overprotective and too wrapped up in her own world to properly raise her children. She is not a great comedian, but has no idea and Blethyn barrels through one bad joke after another to demonstrate Jean's determination to hit it big.
Chittenden does a terrific job as Tim giving him so little backbone early in the film that when he finally does stand up the complete 180 makes the audience exhale a sigh of "finally." Booth couldn't be more adorable as Jill, but she is unfortunately given only a background role. When it is time to take center stage she does expertly, but those moments are few and deprive her of what could have been a powerhouse performance.
Each storyline and performance in Introducing the Dwights is more satisfying than the sum of its parts, but that is what we are left with. It has moments of pure hilarity and genuine emotion, but never amounts to the film it could have been. | Matthew F. Newlin