It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Waking Ned Devine" opens with the news that someone in the Irish hamlet of Tullymore (population 53--uh, 52) has won the National Lottery. Who could it be? The locals, who have lived in one another's pockets for years, snoop and gossip, and seize upon the slightest deviation from habit as proof that someone expects a windfall. But there are no leads, and finally in desperation a chicken supper is held, at which the winner will perhaps be revealed. No luck. But one person doesn't attend the dinner: Ned Devine.
Jackie O'Shea (Ian Bannen) and Michael O'Sullivan (David Kelly) hasten to Ned's cottage, to find him seated in front of the television set, clutching the winning ticket--and dead. The winnings, they are astounded to learn, are not several hundred thousand pounds, as they had assumed, but nearly 7 million pounds. A fortune! Alas, since Ned Devine is dead, the money will be recycled back into the kitty for next week's drawing.
Right? Not on your life. Jackie and Michael hatch a plan to fool the visiting official from Dublin, who after all has never laid eyes on Ned in his life (few have, outside of Tullymore). Michael will impersonate Ned. The whole town will of course have to be in on the scheme, and so Jackie and Michael draw up an agreement in which their friends and neighbors will join in the deception and share in the prize.
That's the premise of another one of those delightful village comedies that seem to spin out of the British isles annually. "Waking Ned Devine" can take its place alongside "Local Hero," "Comfort and Joy," "The Snapper," "The Van," "The Full Monty," "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain," "Brassed Off," "Eat the Peach" and many others. Why don't we have more small-town comedies like this from America? Why are small towns in the U.K. and Ireland seen as conspiracies of friends, while American small towns are so often depicted as lairs of wackos? One of the joys of "Waking Ned Devine" is in the richness of the local eccentric population.