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The reaction at the press screening for Damo and Ivor: The Movie was like a group of people watching newsreel footage of the Germans taking Paris. The stony, resigned silence was broken only by the desperate yammering coming from the screen. This film begins with the brilliant comic setup of someone having a wank for almost no reason and ends with a character’s anguished howl as they ask when this will all end.
Damo and Ivor has always based itself on the observation that Northsiders are all Dutch Gold swilling, madouvit, car thieves and Southsiders are all chino clad, clueless poshos. Here, both Damo and Ivor have been reunited (turns out they were long lost twins) and, along with Grano (Ruth McCabe) they set out to find their third brother, John Joe, who is, get this, a traveller. You can read the rest of the review after you get back from the ER with those split sides stitched up.
To be fair, the film focuses less on the culture clash and more on a classic road trip that brings our motley crew of characters all the way from Dublin to neighbouring Wicklow. Geography aside, as a joke delivery mechanism it’s not terrible in principle. The problems, in practice, are the jokes themselves. By and large, what we get is a selection of stereotypes screaming and gurning in outfits that would be OTT in a three minute sketch. Stretched to feature length this really is a slog. When they do muster the effort at crafting a setup and payoff gag it falls flat. For the most part, instead of jokes, directors Rob and Ronan Burke are happy enough to point the camera at a Victorian era cliché. Instead of well crafted dialogue they’re happy to have someone say something, anything, about sex.
Andy Quirke, playing both lead roles, turns in one of the least funny lead performances I can remember – twice. In lieu of any charm or comic timing he howls and grimaces his way through every scene. It manages to be both manic and incredibly lazy all at once. He’s surrounded by some actual actors who, despite being given lousy material to work with, make an admirable go of it. Ruth McCabe looks like she’s having fun and more power to her. These brief moments are a relief. It’s not quite fun but it’s like when the torturer stops water-boarding you for a moment. Soon enough it starts again and Quirke’s fucking rictus fills the big screen.
In case this review sounds a little hoity toity, I’d like to point out that I love gross out comedies. I believe that both The Inbetweeners movies are fantastic, low brow entertainment. In an era where Irish comedy has come into its own with Derry Girls, The Young Offenders and The Hardy Bucks, Damo and Ivor stands out as egregiously bad. Even comparing this to them is like comparing the Facebook page ‘Rory’s Stories’ to Father Ted. The problem with this isn’t that it’s not high art. The problem isn’t that it’s classist. The problem isn’t that it’s ‘dumb’. The problem is it’s shite.