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R: ARCHIVE, S: REVIEWS, D: 06/12/1997,

The Van

The final chapter in Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy (with The Commitments and The Snapper) tells the tale of two working-class, out-of-work pals, Larry (Colm Meaney) and Bimbo (Donal O'Kelly), who acquire a "chipper" van and start their own business: Bimbo's Burgers. The van, a manky no-wheeler with an interior "like the insides of a leper," soon proves to be a smash hit among locals so embroiled in Ireland's 1990 World Cup campaign that they can't be bothered to cook.

The physical comedy of the duo's burger-flipping, grease-splattering, utterly unhygienic antics is hilarious. But it's not just the fish batter that turns sour -- the van becomes the object of a power struggle between Larry and Bimbo that threatens to destroy the friendship. Part of Doyle's appeal is his firm grasp of both sides of the tragicomic equation. Stephen Frears's film, on the other hand, largely glosses over the not-so-quiet desperation behind its characters' pranks and wisecracks, going instead for a breezy sit-com feel. Which leaves the vital pathos of the tale as flat as a sat-on burger. At the Nickelodeon and the Kendall Square and in the suburbs.

-- Chris Wright