Oscar-winning director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda, Reservation Road, The Shore) isn’t known for making light-hearted comedies, but his latest effort, WHOLE LOTTA SOLE, is somewhere between SNATCH and NOTTING HILL—and, surprisingly, it kind of works.
The story follows several different sets of characters, among them a young father (Martin McCann), a ruthless crime lord (David O’Hara), a grizzled cop (Colm Meaney), and a hapless American (Brendan Fraser), who runs to Ireland to escape the Boston-Irish mafia and finds himself in even hotter water across the pond than he was at home. Through a series of screwball gags and several cases of mistaken identity, Fraser and company end up on opposite sides of a botched robbery of the local fish market, Whole Lotta Sole, which quickly spirals out of control. With hostages unwittingly taken and a full-on military sniper team poised just outside, will Fraser and his friends be able to explain their convoluted story, send the crime lord to prison and manage to stay out of jail themselves?
Naturally the answer’s yes, but as many a motivational poster will tell you, it’s the journey rather than the destination that counts. While George, who also co-wrote the screenplay, lets the story tip into absurdity fairly often, his boisterous tone is consistent throughout, so it doesn’t feel like a letdown when things magically work out—even when a discarded sofa ends up saving the day.
Fraser, whom I often find hard to take seriously onscreen, manages to successfully play it straight in WHOLE LOTTA SOLE, contrasting nicely with the scenery-chomping (but fabulous) performances of Meaney and O’Hara. McCann (CLASH OF THE TITANS), a relatively fresh face in the US, turns in an appropriately hysterical performance as the hapless robber, and manages not to make Fraser look like a Yankee oaf by comparison (no mean feat, I’m sure, in a film full of authentic Northern Irish actors). The film is also very pretty to look at; though we don’t get to see too much of the town where everything goes down—a picturesque suburb of Belfast—what we are shown could easily be cut into a commercial for the Irish tourism board. It makes you want to hop the next flight on Aer Lingus and never look back.
This is not a serious film, so those hoping for the darker edge of early Guy Ritchie or the incredibly sardonic wit of Ben Wheatley will definitely be disappointed. However, if you’re looking for a good date movie or something appropriate for your senior-discount parents—ever notice how similar those two sets of criteria are?–WHOLE LOTTA SOLE would definitely do the trick. It’s exactly what you want it to be: light, fun, pretty, and amusing enough to keep you interested for 90 minutes. You may even be inspired to go for a Guinness afterwards.