Independent films about 30-year-old boy-men who don’t know what to do with their lives are as plentiful as snowflakes at Sundance. So when someone finds a way to freshen up the old format, as Scott Prendergast does in “Kabluey,” you take notice.
“Kabluey” takes elements of early-mid-life existential crisis, mixes them with Iraq War anxiety, then pours the whole thing into a blue foam-rubber mascot costume. There are terrible children who earn laughs by being monsters. There is someone dressed as a giant wedge of cheese. In short, there is oddness and whimsy and ingenuity — exactly what it takes to get an indie film noticed.
Prendergast wrote and directed the film (his first feature) and stars as Salman (like Rushdie), a layabout who’s been fired from all of his dead-end jobs, most recently at a copy shop, where he became obsessed with the laminator. His brother is a National Reservist whose tour in Iraq has just been extended, so Salman moves in with his sister-in-law, Leslie (Lisa Kudrow), to help her take care of his hellion nephews.
The boys, Lincoln (Landon Henninger) and Cameron (Cameron Wofford), are somewhere between 4 and 7 years old, both undisciplined and awful. Leslie, exhausted from being a single mom and worried sick about her soldier husband, can’t wait to get back to work and leave the brats in the hands of their uncle. And then, for reasons known only to them, the boys decide they hate Salman and want to kill him.
But that is only the first part of the film, a mere diversion before we get to the meat of it. Leslie gets a job for Salman. (Why would she do that when the whole point of his moving in was to take care of the kids during the day? Shh! Don’t ask questions.) The job involves handing out fliers advertising available office space. It also involves wearing the costume of the company’s mascot, Kabluey, a tall blue finger-less figure with an enormously oversize round head and no facial features. The size of Kabluey’s giant noggin makes it lean forward, so that even with no mouth or eyes, Kabluey always looks sad and dejected.
Prendergast, an improvisational comedian, can work a sight gag like nobody’s business (the image of Salman’s hand reaching out from the back of the Kabluey costume will always make me laugh), and Salman’s torment at the hands of his nephews and his misadventures in the big dumb costume are wonderfully funny. Salman is lovably pitiful, but also sensitive to his sister-in-law’s complicated emotions. He may have closed himself off from the world, but he still wants his brother’s family to be safe and happy. If it takes an absurd job and a ridiculous costume to save the day, well, so be it.
B+ (1 hr., 30 min.; )