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Movie Review

Spin the Bottle

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Directed by Ian FitzGibbon, starring Michael McElhatton, Peter McDonald, Bronagh Gallagher, Donal O'Kelly, Pat Leavy and Simon Delaney.

'Paths to Freedom' was one of RTÉ's more successful comedy series, a rags vs riches faux-documentary that was admirably deadpan and sharp. Michael McElhatton's personal creation, the imbecilic Rats Doyle, was unforgettable enough to deserve a return to the screen, this time on celluloid.

"I'm still Rats from the flats," says the film's tagline and 'Spin the Bottle' opens with our hero (yet again) being released from Mountjoy Prison. Having evaded the attentions of a psychotic Northern inmate, (in the process resurrecting the 'anti-Nordie' vein of humour that was one of 'Paths to Freedom's highlights) Rats heads back to the Corpo estate and his ailing mother.

The heroically dimwitted Tommo (McDonald) has become her surrogate son and Brainer (O'Kelly), Spermdotcom's third member (ooh-er), has shacked up with camp death metal band Satan's Cock.

Rats' aunt is in dire need of a trip to Lourdes and Tommo's regular donations to the fund mean that Rats is sleeping on the couch. Once again our hero needs money and success to prevail.

'Spin the Bottle' wears its tiny budget on its sleeve. The use of locations is sparing and the camerawork is occasionally uncertain. There are one or two technical howlers that would not have made the final cut of a better-funded production. But the script has enough good one-liners to keep it moving along, and the performances are generally of a high standard, particularly the late Pat Leavy as Rats' long-suffering mother - "My Rats is very sensitive…and a bit mental."

The film could have chosen a few of its targets better (is there really any mileage left in Christian folk groups and heavy metal bands?) and some of the performances are below par - Simon Delany's Drogheda accent wobbles and Louis Walsh manages to make a hash of playing himself.

But the well-meaning stupidity of Rats wins out in the end and McElhatton invests enough emotion in his child-like creation to make the budding romance with Bronagh Gallagher's character almost moving.

Luke McManus

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