Copyright © 1997. All Rights Reserved.
Guinness is good for you
The Van makes a great beer ad, so-so movie
by Robert Tarry
starring Colm Meany, Donal O'Kelly, Ger Ryan and Brendan O'Carroll
directed by Stephen Frears
Now playing at The Globe cinema
The Van is th'tale of tew Irish lads - a cupla drunken barstards tew! - who....
Ah, Fookin Shite! I canna dew the friggin' Hirish axent the whole fookin harticle, so yul jus haf tah bear wit me.
In this, the third and final installment of novelist Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy (capping off The Commitments and The Snapper), two down-on-their-luck unemployed blokes - one a blustering, bullying, kind-hearted fat guy (Colm Meany), the other his endearing, level-headed, whipped best friend (Donal O'Kelly) - hatch a plan to make money.
(Way to go there, Ralphie boy!)
Faster than you can hum the theme song to the Flintstones, the two buddies are in business for themselves, driving a greasy fish and chips van around the countryside on a sort of get-rich-slowly scheme.
The narrative meanders like, uh, like a greasy fish and chips van from drunken merriment to poignant, wonderfully captured moments of real life (the scenes between Colm Meany and Ger Ryan ring particularly true) to broad fart-joke comedy to over-the-top, almost fairy-tale-like story-telling. (The scene where the entire neighborhood follows The Van, Pied Piper style, turning cartwheels and shouting with glee was a real headscratcher.)
The Van would have been a stronger film had the tone been more focused, the storyline a little tighter. (Are we supposed to care about the health inspector's arrival? Or the bit about the union?) And that's why The Van, successful on some fronts, is still the weakest of the Barrytown Trilogy.
Loosely strung vignettes full of shifts in tone and purpose,which are read and enjoyed over a longer period of time in novels, can seem a little disjointed and unsatisfying when filmed.
But then again, from the land where your misery and mirth and little wee gnomes lurk side by side in every pub, this could just be par for the course.
Speaking of pubs, if you're a fan of beer that eats like a meal (fork! spoon!), you'll get damn thirsty watching The Van.
'Scuse me for a sec while I step out for a pint.
(elapsed time: 47 minutes)
Fook! That's better! I wuz jus aboot tuh - Wha? Hold on! Ya still readin'? Fookin shite! The review's over for foook sake! Go on! Go ouet and git a pint for yer own self! Christ.
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