1998; Rated PG; 91 Minutes
Ian Bannen: Jackie O'Shea
David Kelly: Michael O'Sullivan
Fionnula Flanagan: Annie O'Shea
Susan Lynch: Maggie
James Nesbitt: Pig Finn
Produced by Alexandre Heylan, Richard Holmes, Stephen
Margolis, Miara Martell, Glynis Murray and Neil Peplow;
Directed and screenwritten by Kirk Jones
by DAVID KEYES
Ned Devine" begins with such a promising premise that it's
possible to understand why the majority of film critics
have given it great reviews. And yet it's hard to believe
that most of them find it as appealing as "The Full Monty."
It's a film that has the right intentions to humor the audience,
but it does not deliver what it wants, nor does it establish
a reason why a premise like this should exist if it's going
to be carried out by laughless and plotty story developments.
Irish have a strange way of looking at comedy, but then
again, so do the British. They showed that tendency in full
form with "The Full Monty." Sometimes the humor is even
funny. And sometimes it's either stupid or tone-deaf. A
movie like "Waking Ned Devine" tries so desperately hard
to make the viewer crack a smile, and sometimes it works.
Yet most of the time there is this displacement, as if the
humor belongs to a whole new premise in the movies.
film stars Ian Bannen and David Kelly, who are basically
two scheming friends that help carry out the film's plot
(given the right material, though, they could be just as
funny as Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are when they're
together on screen). Bannen plays Jackie O'Shea, and Kelly,
Michael O'Sullivan. Both of them live in a small Irish town
composed of 52 people, and on the surface, it looks like
one of those places where everyone knows one another. That
may be true, but these really aren't your typical 'neighborly'
residents. The few that we get to meet are either mean-spirited,
filthy, moronic, or shallow-written individuals who try
to incorporate their personalities as a reason to laugh.
There is, for instance, the wheelchair hag named Lizzy Quinn,
whose basic motive in the script is to spread her hate on
everyone that gets in her way. I've always loved those mean
old ladies in movies, but something is wrong with this one
that I can't quite pinpoint.
now on to that premise. First of all, it's a fascinating
one; if the film had permitted some decent humor to go with
it, the result could have been great. It's about Jackie
and Michael, two scheming friends who one day learn that
someone in their 52-people village has the winning national
lottery ticket in his/her hands. They put their heads together
and come up with a great plan: if they can find this winner,
maybe they can get in on some of the money.
they poke around for awhile, trying to find out who really
has the ticket. As it turns out, the one who holds the winnings
is Ned Devine, who is found at his cottage dead and grasping
the winning ticket in his hand.
the entire village gets in on their plan to split the winnings
once the lottery official has arrived in town. To do this,
Ned Devine has to be present, so Michael decides to play
Ned once they get there. The whole concept turns the screenwriter/director
Kirk Jones loose in a series of situations and twists in
the plot that seem to be ideal for the premise, but they
never really have any laughs.
these events all take place in this village, and carrying
the twists are some of the other important villagers. One
of them is a 'temporary' substitute priest who ponders to
himself why he is working for God if he's never met him.
There's a pig farmer in town too, but he might have to get
rid of his pigs in order to satisfy his girlfriend, who
is not about to marry a man that smells like a sty.
with a sense of misplacement and completely awkward treatment,
"Waking Ned Devine" is that village comedy that should not
have reached America. If the humor has some sort of heavy
artillery to ensure that we laugh our heads off, we can
get comedies like "The Full Monty." If it's evoked in a
style and treatment that doesn't seem to have any relation
or meaning to the premise, than it's not very funny. The
movie has two or three scenes between our two main characters
that do provoke a crackup, but that's it. Most of it's wasted
screen time. Half of it is corny, too.
but the movie does at least try to divert. Most of the events
of this village scam with the national lottery associate
are shown as much as possible, and in the list of routines
is one of the film's most legendary scenes, in which David
Kelley mounts a motor bike buck-naked and heading down the
road to Ned's cottage. His shrimpy nude body and helmet
on head can all be seen on screen. Nudity is not very funny,
but at least here, it's a little amusing.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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