Aug 1, 2014

Review: Waking Ned [Waking Ned Devine] (1998)

After watching Waking Ned, my first question was "what the hell happened to Kirk Jones?" He wrote and directed Waking Ned in 1998 before following that up with Nanny McPhee in 2005. Nanny to me is simply OK, nothing more. Four years after that, he wrote and directed Everybody's Fine which is a very empty remake of the Italian film Stanno tutti bene. His worst crime is 2012's What to Expect When You're Expecting which he thankfully did not write. Every movie he's done has gotten progressively worse so who knows what his next project would be like, if he ever does write or direct again. 

Set in Ireland, Waking Ned was actually filmed in the Isle of Man which is in the UK. That's probably something that would irk Irish citizens for sure, but as someone in Canada I don't really notice anything amiss. Sorry. I'll admit that I was having trouble understanding the characters' dialogue with their heavy Irish accents but at around the ten minute mark, I was fine.


Genre: comedy
Directed by: Kirk Jones
Produced by: Richard Holmes, Glynis Murray
Written by: Kirk Jones
Music by: Shaun Davey
Running time: 91 minutes
Production company: Tomboy Films, Gruber Bros, Mainstream S.A., etc.
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Country: United Kingdom, France
Language: English, Latin, Gaelic
Budget: $3,000,000
Box office: $55,257,450 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Ian Bannen, David Kelly, Fionnula Flanagan, Susan Lynch, James Nesbitt, Adrian Robinson, Maura O'Malley, Robert Hickey, Paddy Ward, James Ryland, Fintan McKeown, Eileen Dromey, Kitty Fitzgerald, Dermot Kerrigan


In the small 52 resident village of Tulaigh Mhór (Tullymore), someone has won the big national lottery. Jackie O'Shea (Ian Bannen) and Michael O'Sullivan (David Kelly) are convinced that they should find out who the winner is and get them to share their new found wealth. After finding the list of the regular lottery players in the village, Jackie and his wife Annie (Fionnula Flanagan) throw a chicken dinner to figure out who it is. Their hunt doesn't turn up anyone until it's realized that a single guest did not show up: Ned Divine.


Waking Ned is the kind of comedy that uses sharp wit and depends on good delivery from its actors. There are some clever lines and funny situations that are very well handled by the main actors. The target market for Waking Ned is probably for older folk but as a 23 year-old, it works just fine. Ian Bannen and David Kelly make a great pair of best friends and they're even willing to go stark naked for this picture, but it's all done very appropriately. 

There's something about Waking Ned that seems to be a celebration of Irish life. Kirk Jones captures the whimsical side of Ireland without straying into overdoneness though. The cinematography takes advantage of the beautiful locations in the Isle of Man and the score from Shaun Davey is beautiful and fitting. 

Not only is Waking Ned a celebration of Ireland, but it's also a celebration human kind and friendship. (Spoilers) Jackie and Michael (especially Jackie) begin by wanting to get their hands on dead Ned's lottery winnings for themselves. The thing is, they have to find a way to trick a lottery inspector that Michael is actually Ned. Realizing that their plan isn't going to function without working with all the village residents, Jackie delivers his plea in front of everyone. If everyone works together, everyone will benefit and pull the wool over that snooty lottery man from the city. Ned is respected and celebrated in the end for his postmortem kindness to everyone. How about that mean and crazy old bat Lizzy Quinn (Eileen Dromey) who has it in her head to spoil the whole thing? Well, she gets what's coming to her. (End Spoilers)

Kirk Jones has written a clever story that requires its characters to overcome some legitimate pitfalls put in their way. There are some real laughs and real heartfelt moments that make for some great moments. I'm still a bit hesitant about the subplot with Maggie O'Toole (Susan Lynch) and Pig Finn (James Nesbitt) being relevant and necessary to the overall story but it's not like it ruins the movie. Waking Ned is a movie that can be watched by pretty much anyone despite a cast that is mostly elderly. 



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