1969, and as the world counts down the days to Apollo 11's moon landing, the citizens of a tiny Australian town have more reason than most to be excited. A huge satellite receiver built in a sheep field has been selected to beam the moonwalk around the globe.
From the Australian team behind neglected comedy gem The Castle (1997), comes a heart-warming, true-life tale of small town folk caught up in the biggest television event of the last century.
Neither as raucous nor as funny as The Castle, The Dish is deceptively slight. However, following a honey-slow start, a power cut crisis cranks the plot into motion and the characters into focus. Suddenly we appreciate the sense of living history, and the technical skills of the unlikely heroes assembled to bring it off. From thereon in, the pleasure offered by this calorie-free confectionery is entirely in rooting for the underdog, and no less enjoyable for the certain knowledge that one way or another, the end will warm the cockles.
Indeed, rarely has a film featured a more likeable cast of characters. Possible dark spots, like the interfering NASA busybody, are very quickly ushered into the circle of friends. As the pipe-smoking hub of operations, Cliff Buxton (Neill) is so solid and dependable that grown men will want him for an uncle.
Elsewhere, delightful character actors abound, all of them painting in broad enough strokes to raise a smile, but investing enough warmth to keep the small town eccentrics the right side of caricature.
Australia seems to have made such miniature delights a specialist subject, and The Dish plays to the nerdish, space-loving teenager inside many an adult male, in exactly the same way that the similarly-toned Muriel's Wedding stirred up soft and squishy sentiments in any girl who ever played dress-up or felt left out.
That's not to say that both sexes won't get a kick out of The Dish, but it's surprising to find such a purely feel-good film which relegates notions of romance and family life to secondary place, and celebrates instead the joys of the workplace, mathematics and gadgetry.
Larkish, good-humoured and impossible to dislike, this is the kind of movie where you should treat with suspicion anyone who leaves the theatre unmoved. They are obviously too mean of spirit to join in the fun. Nah-nah to them, hurrah for this.