The Boys & Girl From County Clare
Starring Colm Meaney, Bernard Hill, and Andrea Corr. Rated PG.
There's a certain kind of foreign movie that many people think of when you say the name Miramax, and, sure and begorra, The Boys & Girl From County Clare is one of them.
Let's start with that title, shall we? Good. The movie began life, reasonably enough, as The Boys From County Clare. Somewhere along the line, though, the Miramax marketing department recognized that Andrea Corr, from the soft-rock group the Corrs, might be a better selling point than a couple of craggy brothers-played by Colm Meaney and Bernard Hill-locked in a lifelong feud, so why not call it, oh, I don't know, The Boys & Girl From County Clare?
Chalk that up to a good idea while the Guinness was flowing, which is pretty much what you can say about Nicholas Adams's by-the-numbers script and the flaccid direction of John Irvin-whose best effort was the British TV version of Robin Hood almost 15 years ago.
The main story reunites the McMahon brothers after a falling-out over a woman 20 years earlier. Jimmy (Meaney) went to Liverpool to seek his fortune, and John Joe (Hill) stuck around County Clare, never marrying but living for his music. Now it's the late '60s-although the filmmakers seem to think the Beatles were then a new phenomenon-and the siblings have put together crack ceilidh bands that will end up competing against each other in an annual festival of traditional Irish folk tunes.
For all the film's talk about this subject (some of it plainly anachronistic, along the lines of "It's about the music, dammit!"), the con?cert scenes are perfunctorily handled, with little done to differentiate good performances from great ones. Instead, there's a lot of silly business with the bands trying to sabotage each other's efforts, and a lot of throwing up. Anyway, the contest comes and goes with little suspense, and the central conflict-which also concerns Maisie (Charlotte Bradley), the pianist in John Joe's outfit-is soon resolved and then swamped by a budding romance between Jimmy's prize flutist (Being Julia's Shaun Evans) and Maisie's daughter (Corr, of course), who happens to be the county's best fiddler.
Here's a hint: the girl doesn't know who her Da might be. We do, however, about 20 minutes in, and the last half-hour of The Boys of Whatever is an amiably shapeless exercise in Miramaxing thin material well past its breaking point and almost getting away with it. Well, that all depends on the Guinness, dunnit?