Alan: Hey Brendan, remember Airheads?
Fraser: [Pauses George of the Jungle] That movie where I take a radio station hostage and then have a hilarious standoff with police? Of course I do!
Alan: Well, you’re being offered a similar part about the heist of a fish store in Belfast, Northern Ireland. You interested?
Fraser: Definitely. So are there parts for wacky sidekicks? I’d love to get Sandler and Buscemi involved again! I bet they can both do wicked Irish accents!
Alan: Not exactly. Your standoff is in an antique store with a young father, his infant son, your love interest, and two Irish Traveler children.
Fraser: Oh. That’s kind of random, but most comedies are funny because they’re random, right? Do I have any great action sequences?
Alan: Uh, no. You kind of just talk on the phone a lot with the police, with some wacky misunderstandings during the negotiations. In fact, despite being the lead your character actually doesn’t contribute much to the movie. I’d even say your character is entirely superfluous and perhaps only there to get a recognizable American star in a film that has a predominately Irish cast.
Fraser: [Pauses] Huh. Well, I always wanted to visit Belfast anyway. Sure, sign me up! [Hits “Play” on George of the Jungle]
I have no idea if the above conversation actually took place, but I suspect it might have (just as I suspect Brendan Fraser spends most of his time watching his 1990s movies over and over again). Whole Lotta Sole is a rare comedy from director/co-write Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) that takes place in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, yet it feels so artificial. Whether it is because the plot is reminiscent of the much better Airheads or because it’s an Irish film starring Brendan freakin’ Fraser, the best way to describe this movie is that it’s similar to St. Patrick’s Day in the United States, when millions of people think they can become Irish by wearing plastic green hats that they bought at Duane Reade and drinking Bud Light out of a green bottle. Whole Lotta Sole might have been filmed in Belfast and feature a predominately Northern Irish cast, but it’s a ridiculous Hollywood plot premise doing its best attempt at an Irish accent.
Fraser is an American named Joe Maguire lying low in Belfast by running an antique store owned by his vacationing cousin. He suspects something is up with Jimbo (Martin McCann), a young man who is frequently snooping around the store. But Jimbo has his own problems — he owes a significant amount of money to Mad Dog Flynn (David O’Hara, probably best known for his delivery of the “I’m not gonna be home for supper” line in The Departed), an ex-IRA man who runs a casino. Jimbo of course tried to earn the money for the debt by — how else? — gambling at Flynn’s own casino, which of course sunk him even deeper. With Flynn demanding Jimbo’s infant son as payment, Jimbo is increasingly desperate to get the money and concocts a wildly awful scheme to get the money back. During all this there is a forgettable subplot involving police officer Weller (Colm Meaney) and his son over the changing values of Northern Irish young people… or something.
There are a dozen or so funny moments, but like watching a three year old those funny moments are mainly surrounded by annoying ones. In fact, there are several underlying plot threads that don’t really go anywhere (like the issue with Weller and his son). Fraser is his usual likable self, but as I suggested above he really doesn’t belong in this movie and his character seems to be shoehorned in with a convenient backstory to help justify his presence. The movie as a whole seems like a poor imitation of Guy Ritchie’s crime comedies, but there’s just no comparison. But I guess since much of the 1990s and early 2000s were devoted to perfecting the heist movie, so at this point we’re petering out on the genre with weak attempts at parody. There are much better Irish comedies that are more deserving of attention, including another 2011 film, The Guard (check out Melissa’s review here!)
Rating: Like Bud Light dressing itself in a green bottle for St. Pat’s, Whole Lotta Sole unfortunately isn’t in the league of much better movies it imitates (5/10)
Tribeca Film Festival Screening Times
Sunday, April 29 3:00PM AMC Loews Village 7 – 1