DVD review | Mental – PJ Hogan unleashes Toni Collette’s subversive nanny on Australian suburbia

Toni Collette and PJ Hogan, star and director of Muriel’s Wedding, reunite for another darkly funny Aussie comedy – but this time the duo fail to pull off another brash triumph.

Mental finds Collette in the role of an anarchic hitchhiker who gets hired as a nanny to five troubled sisters and goads them into acts of subversive non-conformity. The girls’ emotionally distant father, Barry Moochmore (Anthony LaPaglia), is the philandering mayor of the Queensland coastal town of Dolphin Heads. His behaviour has pushed their unbalanced mother, Shirley (Rebecca Gibney), into a fantasy world where she is not a put-upon suburban mother but Maria from The Sound of Music.

And it’s when the trilling, skipping Shirley has a full-scale breakdown and gets sent to a psychiatric hospital that Collette’s Shaz steps in at Barry’s invitation. Accompanied by a pitbull terrier named Ripper, Shaz is soon shaking up the lives of the misfit Moochmore girls, building up their self-esteem while exposing the neuroses of their supposedly normal neighbours (including Kerry Fox’s fanatically house-proud Nancy, forever cleaning her driveway with a toothbrush). Also in her sights is ex-husband Trevor (Liev Schreiber), a macho shark hunter who employs eldest Moochmore daughter Coral (Lily Sullivan) at his amusement park exhibit.

As Shaz lets rip, Hogan tears into Australian suburbia with the satirical gusto he showed in Muriel’s Wedding. The humour is every bit as rude and raucous as before, but Hogan’s touch here seems heavy handed and the use of songs from The Sound of Music doesn’t work nearly so well as the joyous Abba tunes that drove his earlier hit.

Released on DVD & Blu-ray by Universal on Monday 8th April.

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