"The Van" is the third in a trilogy about comic, poignant, resourceful Irish in a fictitious North Dublin suburb, Barrytown. They live almost in each other's chronically empty pockets, regularly go to the local pub, and weather life with creativity and resilience. Two good men nearly ruin their friendship by restoring an ancient, hideous food van left to rust in someone's backyard. Covered with grease and lacking an engine, it soon becomes "Bimbo's Burgers,' and gives the two men hope.
Meaney is in all three Doyle films. Here, as Larry, he's a large man with a kind face; as the film opens, he's unemployed, and trying to cheer up Bimbo (O'Kelly) over a pint of Guinness after Bimbo's fired from the bakery. At home, Larry presides over a defiant household: his unmarried daughter has a baby; his son has a sharp tongue ("Who paid for that dinner in front of you, son?' "The state.') But his loving wife, Maggie (Ryan), keeps him happy, and is taking literature classes at night.
Decorating her kitchen is a framed portrait of John Wayne; when the men finally ready the van to move it, they yell, "Take 'em to Missouri, men! Yee-haw!' Also in the kitchen is a "swear jar,' into which Larry and his children frequently have to pay because of their foul vocabulary.
During the summer of 1990 -- fondly remembered in Dublin because the Irish soccer team made it to the semifinals of the World Cup, defeating England and Romania all along the way -- Larry, Bimbo, and their passionate friends watch the matches at the pub. The two venture into business after finding the usual, Vietnamese-owned fast food van gone, one night as they leave the pub after a match. "They have to be gone by dark, or they'll get bricked by the kids," Larry tells Bimbo. The two think they can make money at each cup match and at the beach.
The movie's funniest scenes include a Christmas dinner lubricated by Guinness, a disapproving mother-in-law, and a candy bar stolen from a child's Christmas basket. In a comic scene, the two friends golf while they baby-sit, taking along a baby in its stroller. "The Van," released in 1996, moves more quickly than the two earlier films in the trilogy, and seems more alive. It's also the most thoughtful, with an ending poignant and unresolved: These disorganized lives wouldn't fit into a neat ending.
Colm Meaney, Donal O'Kelly, Brendan O'Carroll, Ger Ryan, Ruaidrhri Conroy
Fast-food van; Northern Irish
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