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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/9/99

Waking Ned Devine
1998 (1999) 20th Century Fox

review by Frank Ortiz, special to The Digital Bits

Waking Ned Devine Film Ratings: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/C-

Specs and Features

91 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English & Spanish, Close Captioned

Have you ever played the lottery? Do you know anyone that has ever played the lottery? After seeing this movie, I have a slightly different outlook when I think about purchasing a lottery ticket. At first I thought this film was merely an attempt to follow up on the success of The Full Monty, so I didn't see it in its theatrical release. But I'll admit, I enjoyed watching it on DVD more than I anticipated - Waking Ned Devine is a pleasant and refreshing experience. And surprisingly, it's not so much the comedy in Waking Ned Devine, as the strong, close-knit sense of community among the people of Tulaigh Morh (pronounced Tullymore), that plays straight to the heart.

The premise itself is quite amusing. Someone has apparently won the lottery in Tulaigh Morh, but who holds the winning ticket? A pair of the town's old men, Jackie and Michael (played by Ian Bannen and David Kelly), scheme to find out who the winner is and befriend them, in hopes of sharing in the winnings. After going through their list of regular lottery players, one last name comes up: Ned Devine. Unfortunately, Jackie finds that Ned has passed away, seemingly from the shock of learning he'd won, with a smile on his face and his winning ticket in hand. That night, Jackie has a dream in which Ned appears, and Jackie assumes it's Ned's way of telling him to claim the prize for the residents of Tulaigh Morh. So Jackie and Michael cook up a scheme. Ned had no family, so Jackie assumes that claiming the lottery prize is as easy as saying he is Ned. But when a lottery official arrives, and catches Jackie and Michael at an inopportune time, it's a reluctant Michael who must pretend to be Ned. And more obstacles arise, as the pair have to convince the entire town to join the scheme, including the town "witch".

At first glance, it might seem as though greed is at play in Waking Ned Devine, but it turns out to be much different. You may find yourself, as I did, rooting for the success of the people of Tulaigh Morh. The story is a blast, but it's the characters and revealing relationships that really won me over. Have you ever wanted to live in a small town, where everyone knows your business and still likes you? The director/writer, Kirk Jones, does a wonderful job here, making you feel like you really know the people in the village. Jackie and Michael seem like they've been close friends their entire lives. All of the characters are well-rounded and three dimensional - a nice feat for Jones' first feature film. There are plenty of scenes here that leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, without being sappy.

And the cinematography here is equally good. The movie was completely filmed in Cregneash on the Isle of Man. The scenery is beautiful, with rolling green hills and rocky, sea-side country that only an island setting can create. The country and village settings reminded me of The Quiet Man or the small town in Matchmaker. This film really looks great.

As this is a 20th Century Fox DVD, I didn't expect to see anamorphic widescreen picture, or much extras. There has to be some sort of reason that Fox didn't put this out in anamorphic widescreen, but for the life of me, I can't think of a valid one. Still, the video quality was very good. Colors were right on, with accurate flesh tones, and a warm overall look (which was probably done on purpose, given the warm interaction between characters). This is a very recent film, and the transfer and compression are quite good. I didn't notice any edge enhancement, and saw pretty nice blacks, and good overall contrast. There was a slight bit of grain visible on occasion, but it was barely noticeable. This is a beautiful picture, with great performances and locations. It's a pity - no, a travesty - that it wasn't released in anamorphic widescreen format. Surprisingly, the menu screens WERE anamorphic - what's that about? Woo hoo (can you sense any sarcasm?)!

The disc's audio was Dolby Digital 2.0 only, but the quality was great. I'm a fan of mellow Celtic music, so much of the soundtrack was refreshing to hear. All the dialogue was easy to understand, and the pub scenes were very natural sounding. There didn't seem to be a need for the rear channels much in the mix, though it still made for excellent audio. There was no hiss or noise, as you would expect from a recent film transfer. As for other extras, I was not surprised when I found very little on the disc. There were cast bios and a theater trailer. It would have been wonderful to have a featurette on the locations, or on the making of the film, or a director's commentary, or... can you see where I'm going? More extras are definitely desired here.

All in all, this is a movie well worth seeing, and a disc that performs well, both in picture and sound. If you were to ask, I'd say it's definitely worth buying on sale, or with a coupon over the Internet. Waking Ned Devine may not have star power, and the DVD lacks bells and whistles, but the performances are great, the locations are beautiful, and the film leaves you feeling all warm inside. I'd say it like this - bring this DVD home, and you'll probably get more entertainment for your dollar than you would from buying the same amount's worth of lottery tickets.

Frank Ortiz
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