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Waking Ned Review

Image for Waking Ned

★★★★

As 1994 Nic Cage vehicle It Could Happen To You and countless tabloid tales of misfortune have shown, the lure of six numbered balls is a topic rich with comic potential. And so it proves again here as one Saturday night, the glittery, golden finger of fate and a six million quid roll-over pot prods a tiny village in the south of Ireland.

Jackie O'Shea (Bannen) is determined to discover which of Tullymore's 52 inhabitants is suddenly rather well off. Plying his fellow villagers with wife Annie's (Flanagan) chicken supper and a persuasive snifter of fermented barley, Jackie eventually twigs that the winner must be Ned Devine. But Ned's not well off at all, and won't be spending one penny of his massive windfall. Because Ned's dead. And with Lottery rep Jim Kelly (Brendan F. Dempsey) en route, the claim will die with him. Unless, of course, Jackie and best pal Michael (Kelly) can pull off a plan of guile, cunning and - well, let's call a spade a spade - fraud.

With its non-starry cast and such a modest premise, this could so easily have been dwarfed by the big screen, but it's a worthy feature and debutant Jones has a wealth of charming players, particularly in peripheral subplots such as whiffy pig farmer James Nesbitt's stop-start romance with single mum Susan Lynch. There's a wicked glint to his script, too, which always checks its warm-heartedness just short of sentimentality, and keeps a steady laugh count rolling.

Bannen and Kelly hurl themselves into this with the energy and exuberance of a pair of teenagers, and whether skinny-dipping at a picturesque cove or belting along lanes naked on a motorbike, the vim of these two twinkly-eyed and likeable old codgers is steeled with a wily determination.

It's this edge which has hustled the movie deserved elbow room in the multiplexes alongside more expensive and cinematic productions, and as the twin revelations of a wonderfully unexpected pay-off prove, in the end there's no substitute for wit, invention and real, priceless humour.