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Movie Review

Waking Ned Devine

MPAA Rating: PG for nudity, language and thematic elements

Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
91 min.
Year of Release:
1998
PG

Starring: Ian Bannen, David Kelly, Fionnula Flanagan, Susan Lynch, James Nesbitt, Maura O'Malley, Robert Hickey, Paddy Ward / Director: Kirk Jones

What if you didn’t win the lottery but someone you know did—but, then that person died from the excitement? That’s the basic premise of “Waking Ned Devine”, a small Irish movie that yields enough smiles and imagination to claim the title “feel-good movie”—the “feel-good” movie of the year, as a matter of fact, head and shoulders above anything Hollywood’s done this year.

The Lottery hits Tullymore, a small Irish town with an even smaller population, and Jackie O'Shea (IAN BANNEN) and his wife Annie (FIONULLA FLANAGAN) bask in the excitement to find the winner. Is it the pig farmer? Is it their next-door neighbor? Is it the crotchety old mean lady, or the storekeeper? Jackie and Annie proceed to host a dinner for the town, dropping subtle hints and innuendoes that might provoke someone to spill the beans. These first few scenes are as striking a commentary on human nature and proper Christian attitudes as anything else in 1998.

Annie grows concerned about Jackie’s plan to pursue the lottery winnings, so Jackie proceeds to scheme with Michael O'Sullivan (DAVID KELLY), a geriatric chain-smoker who provides the most jaw-dropping image in the entire film. (Which hereby serves as a warning to Christian parents considering taking their children, that both Jackie and Michael are shown skinny dipping, but the latter nudity is more envelope-pushing, done entirely for comic effect with no sexual suggestions.)

Less interesting about “Waking Ned Devine”—indeed, some viewers would agree pointless—is a subplot concerning two different locals competing for a single mom’s affection. There is nothing sleazy or suggestive here, but Jackie’s exploits for the lottery is by far more engaging and entertaining material.

There’s much talk in the “secular” press about how unknown the cast is, though foreign audiences (and American fans of imports) will recognize some of the faces. The town’s shop keeper, for instance, is played by Maura O'Malley, who had a small but pivotal role in “The Commitments”, the risque Irish movie from a few years ago. Fans of the BBC-TV’s “Faulty Towers” will recognize some of the cast.

Why the low Moral Rating for a “PG” movie? Because “Waking Ned Devine”, while more refreshing than Hollywood formula and not very sleazy, does contain enough profanity and non-sexual nudity to concern Christians audiences. There are no four-letter words, but the Lord’s name is dragged down repeatedly. Bottom line: For older teens and adults only.

Viewer Comments
I thought this movie was nothing more than justifying situational ethics. It advocated lying and deceit for the good of the community. Although it was somewhat entertaining I don’t think that the underlying message is one that should be supported by the Christian community.
—Chione
Despite the delightfully different, superbly acted, and hilarious shenanigans of “Waking Ned Devine,” Hollywood once again succeeds in getting their subtle digs in regarding the Christian faith… It wasn’t the skinny dipping scenes, the conspiratorial lie, or the loose morals of the young lady that concerned me. What was most disturbing was the totally unrelated and uneccessary scene where a young lad poses his “innocent” question to a priest as to why he would “work for a boss he’s never seen and then without pay?”. Agreed, this is a valid question from a curious mind; the insult, however, is not in the question, but in the total lack of an answer. Once again Hollywood intentionally attacks Christianity by insinuating the absurdity of “blind” faith. To add insult to injury, by the end of the movie, the inferred answer to all that “ails ya” (framed in heavenly celtic sounds of orchestral bagpipes and magnificent Irish cliffs) is a windfall of easy money (the ends justify the means) and perhaps a bottle of good Irish whiskey. This “feel-good” movie is like indulging in a hot-fudge sundae—rich, delicious and temporarily satisfying, but the message it delivers is deceptive and nutritionally bankrupt to the soul.
—Pam McCarthy, age 40
I agree with Alan Davis, one of your other reviewers. On one level, I laughed and thoroughly enjoyed this charming story, but, since we took our 12-year-old daughter with us, both my husband and I felt uneasy about some of its messages. The movie glorified greed, dishonesty and fraud. It was so fun to watch the characters scheming to collect the lottery winnings, but, bottom line, what they did was wrong. They even got the local pastor to play along! “Waking Ned Devine” made for some good family conversation on the way home. We talked about how people tend to rationalize their “bad deeds,” as they did in the movie, saying Ned would have wanted them to get the money and no one will find out—as if that makes it all right. We talked about what we would do if we were drawn into a similar scheme. We laughed and agreed we’d have to move out of town. We wouldn’t tell anyone what the others did (maybe that makes us liars, too), but we couldn’t live with ourselves if we took the money. I’d like to see a sequel that shows a few of the consequences (not all happy ones) that came of those winnings. Overall, we considered “Waking Ned Devine” a good opportunity to show our daughter how subtly sin can corrupt even “good” people. I recommend the movie as a powerful parenting tool. Kids usually see more “physical sin” in the movies—murder, assault, inappropriate sex. Those are easy to recognize and point out as wrong. “Waking Ned Devine” gave vivid images of less obvious, “philosophical” sins, which gave us an opportunity to challenge those, as well.
—Kelly, age 38
The review done on this movie was so correct! What a great movie. It didn’t have all the thrills and chills of Hollywood, but it was so sweet and fun. One scene had the audience dying with laughter, and I am still laughing an hour later! It truly was a simply “feel good” movie, and we liked it very much! My 14-year-old daughter had no problem with the nudity… it was really quite cute, in my opinion! you’ll understand when you see it. I so often say, “I wish Hollywood would learn.” This is what Americans want!
—Nancy, age 45
I loved this movie!! We see very few movies, because they offer so little to us as Christians. This one, however, was delightful and hilarious. I loved the bond of friendship between Jackie and Michael. We took our very mature 8 year old, and she loved it as well. We had to explain at the end of the movie, however, that saying “Jesus’” name in vain was something that was wrong. Other than that, I found this to be a very family-friendly movie.
—Sarah Modisett Lee, age 33
We went for the light-hearted fare of a “feel-good movie of the year,” and the opening scene is simply a delight, but I left disappointed. Beyond the “non-sexual” nudity, which is just a couple of old guys skinny dipping (a common practice in Europe), is the endorsement of the big lie. Our hero, Jackie O'Shea, devises the scheme that he and his friend execute, pretending to be Ned Devine. They meet a few confrontations; one from Jackie’s wife.

But Jackie, ever full of Blarney, eventually corrupts the whole town, as all the people must vouch for the scheme when the lottery banker comes around asking questions to verify the identity of Ned. The one villiager who objects is the meanest woman in town, she wants more than her share to keep quiet.

A most disturbing part is her “accidental” death just before she dials the national lottery office to report the fraud. Several themes from the movie are very dissappointing:

1-the endorsement of the fraud by the movie writers; Jackie is simply the most pleasant man on Earth, so his scheme must be ok, t'isn’t it?

2-Jackie corrupts the whole town to lie to the national lottery office, even his own wife who had initially objected.

3-the endorsement of adultery at the end of the movie.

4-Even at the funeral for the real Ned Devine, Jackie is confronted with the choice to lie or tell the truth, complete with low bass fiddle tones, and Jackie chooses the lie, and the movie glorifies it.

Perhaps I’m from another era, and I’m wrong to confront the lie. Maybe even presidents can lie and feel vindicated because they give out the big lottery. But I was gravely dissapointed in the corrupt message of this movie.
—Alan Davis, age 42