Waking Ned Devine

on November 20, 1998 by Kristan Ginther
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   Managing to be both darkly humorous and wonderfully playful, writer/director Kirk Jones' "Waking Ned Devine" is a glorious antidote to this past summer's action-based cinema offerings.
   In the tiny village of Tulaigh Morh, Ireland--population 52--some lucky person possesses a winning lottery ticket. When lifelong friends Jackie O'Shea (Ian Bannen) and Michael O'Sullivan (David Kelly) hear this incredible news, they make it their business to ferret out the winner and convince him or her to share the earnings with them. However, after throwing a party and buying numerous pints of Guiness at the local pub to liquor up the possible winners, Jackie and Michael find themselves hung-over, broke, and no further along than when they started. But, thanks to some quick thinking on the part of Jackie's wife, Annie (Fionnula Flanagan), they realize that Ned Devine was mysteriously absent from the festivities. Upset that Ned stiffed his invitation, Jackie pays a late-evening call to his abode and discovers that Ned in fact is a stiff. And in his rigormortised hand, he clutches the winning ticket. When Jackie and Michael decide to fraudulently claim Ned's jackpot, the Irish Lottery Commission, all of the townspeople and even a visiting priest get in on the action, with frenzied results.
   "Waking Ned Devine" is a smart and unapologetically wacky film. Any movie that has naked senior citizens riding on a motorcycle, a funeral for a man who is not dead, and a romance on the skids due to the smell of pigs is certainly not afraid of offending anyone, and is willing to do anything for a hearty laugh.
   Jones' writing and direction are both on target (save for a pointless minor plot twist at the end), and he has created some memorably enchanting characters who are brought to vivid life by the talented cast. Like Ned's ticket, this one's a winner. Starring Ian Bannen, David Kelly, Fionnula Flanagan, and Susan Lynch. Directed and written by Kirk Jones. Produced by Glynis Murray and Richard Holmes. A Fox Searchlight release. Comedy. Rated PG for nudity, language and thematic elements. Running time: 90 min
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