Carry on up the cos­mos

is a silly, en­gag­ingly low­brow, low-bud­get Ir­ish com­edy, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

HERE IT is: the con­tro­ver­sial new Ir­ish film from the Car­ney broth­ers.

Well, “con­tro­ver­sial” is prob­a­bly over­stat­ing the case. But Zonad has cer­tainly di­vided audiences dur­ing its jour­ney around the uni­verse’s hu­manoid film fes­ti­vals. For ev­ery punter who’s found the faux-alien in­va­sion com­edy hys­ter­i­cal (the trade pa­per Va­ri­ety deigned it a cult clas­sic) an­other has been un­able to get past its re­lent­less silli­ness. This writer laughed like a drain.

Be­fore John Car­ney di­rected Once, he, of course, de­vel­oped the in­flu­en­tial TV se­ries Bach­e­lor’s Walk with Tom Hall and his brother Kieran Car­ney. Zonad adopts the same spring-healed rhythms as the se­ries, but moves through al­to­gether more barmy ter­ri­tory.

Zonad be­gins with a mys­te­ri­ous stranger – large in a red vinyl suit – wak­ing up drunk in the liv­ing room of a ru­ral fam­ily home. The Cas­sidys have just re­turned from ob­serv­ing an astro­nom­i­cal phe­nom­e­non and, nat­u­rally enough, as­sume that the vis­i­tor is from an­other planet.

He’s not. But, be­ing the sort of layabout Si­mon De­laney plays so well, he rapidly re­alises the mis­un­der­stand­ing can be turned to his ad­van­tage. Be­fore long, he is mak­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into “black beer” and per­suad­ing the town’s young women to sub­mit (for sci­en­tific pur­poses) to a lit­tle gen­tle prob­ing.

A wide va­ri­ety of in­flu­ences an­nounce them­selves. The wil­fully de­ceived town has ap­peared in such con­trast­ing works as Pre­ston Sturges’s Hail the Con­quer­ing Hero and Synge’s Play­boy of the West­ern World. The film’s clev­erly sus­tained amal­gam of tones – the lo­cale is partly sit­u­ated in 1950s US and partly near a mad­der Glen­roe – sug­gests one of Chan­nel 4’s Comic Strip spe­cials from the 1980s.

For good or ill, Zonad is very much one of a kind. At 82 min­utes the pic­ture is short for a live-action fea­ture and some­times plays like an over-ex­tended sketch. Though the team has used its spare re­sources cun­ningly, the lim­ited bud­get does ask the au­di­ence (par­tic­u­larly if they’ve just seen Avatar) to make more than a few al­lowances.

How­ever, con­sis­tently sparky per­for­mances from the likes of Donna Dent and David Pearce help the ves­sel sus­tain its sin­gu­lar tra­jec­tory. It’s cer­tainly un­like any­thing else cur­rently or­bit­ing your mul­ti­plex.

Cheap as chips: Si­mon De­laney could get used to this alien wheeze in Zonad

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