Cambridge 2010 Review: Tony Hawks' ROUND IRELAND WITH A FRIDGE

rating: 0.5

Film history is littered with rubbish adaptations of well loved books, but there was some cause for hope with Tony Hawks' well-liked Round Ireland With a Fridge, with the author himself not only writing the screenplay, but also taking the starring role as himself. After a decade of trying to get the picture made by an American studio €“ which a few years ago almost saw a version starring Brendan Frasier enter production €“ Hawks eventually took it upon himself to make a much more modest version with money privately raised in the UK. The fruit of that effort is now upon us, receiving its world premiere tonight in Cambridge. The story of the book/film is as follows: Tony Hawks drunkenly bets a friend that he can hitchhike the circumference of Ireland with a fridge. If successful he will win one-hundred English pounds (which doesn't even cover the cost of the fridge). The book is set in reality, though one suspects it is in itself contrived (at least in part) in order to write an amusing book (coincidently Hawks' second book would also be the fruit of a €œdrunken bet€). But this film is further removed from reality, as a fictionalised account loosely based on events in the book €“ with Hawks portraying a fictionalised version of himself. Fearful that the book, which was subtle and slow moving, would not translate to the screen, Hawks has taken a depressingly conventional route to adapting it, with two eyes focussed on a wide audience. Hawks' character has to go on more of a journey of self-discovery, which is emphasised simply by having him start off as a bit of an arsehole and (after a saccharine montage of fun times on the road) ends up a bit less of an arsehole. Unlike the Tony of the book, this one is not very friendly to the people he meets, seemingly uninterested in those who stop to give him lifts. This makes things less enjoyable to begin with and undermines the central interest of the book, which lay with meeting people. There is also the addition of a romantic sub-plot, in which a roving radio reporter falls in love with him after they spend some time together on the road (which is hard to believe for about thirty-seven distinct reasons). The humour is much broader here too. The €œlaughs€ come when drunk people fall over, or when Tony steps in mud, or just from him being a bit sarcastic to people. To make things worse, the Irish characters are at the cringing €œoirish€ end of the spectrum and would seem more at home advertising Lucky Charms than in an actual Irish setting, so far removed are they from reality. A typical exchange is something like: €œYou're dat fella wid da fridge ain't ya?! Oh, that's grand! It's hilarious! What sorta eejit hitchhikes wid a fridge! You going far?€ €œYou could say that, yes€ Hawks invariably replies with his dry rapier wit. This conversation happens about eighty times. In fact, remove every scene which consists of people telling us how funny the fridge hitchhike idea is, and there is probably only five minutes of film left. But sadly, the concept was never as funny in of itself as its author believes it to be, though the book carried it along with charm and a refreshingly uncynical view of people. I am a fan of the book €“ and, for what it's worth, his subsequent bet-based adventures - but everything about this film is so rubbish on every level that it quickly eroded all my feelings of goodwill towards its author. Another big problem for the film is that none of the cast can act at all, or at least they've been directed very badly. Whose Line is it Anyway alumni, Josie Lawrence (who plays Tony's agent), is every bit as grating and unfunny as she has ever been, whilst Hawks himself is less emotive and charismatic than his well-travelled domestic appliance. Comedians Sean Hughes and Ed Byrne give it their best shot and are likeable in their limited time on screen, but the material is so uninspired that it's a thankless task for all concerned. Kevin and Perry and Fat Slags director Ed Bye ensures the film looks similarly uninspiring, whilst the music is exactly the sort of clichéd load of old blarney you expect to hear over pastoral shots of Ireland. Considering the obvious selling point of this film (as with the book) is its vicarious tourism as Hawks explores rural Ireland in all its beauty, the film doesn't actually show very much of the landscape, or the people. Instead we are normally looking at Hawks in the passenger seat of a car, looking every bit as sour and miserable as the audience will no doubt find themselves feeling tonight. Hawks has mentioned Lynch's The Straight Story as a guiding reason he thought he could make a film out of his meandering book. But in the end he lacks the courage to make something true to that material, and tragically for him his pandering to an imagined mainstream audience will backfire. Seemingly optimistic, he has already shot the follow-up film, based his second book Playing the Moldovans at Tennis (a funnier book, and possibly a more interesting concept for a film). However, after Round Ireland With a Fridge, it will have a hard time attracting a distributor, let alone an audience. Perhaps the film was itself the product of a drunken bet. What a powerful argument for sobriety that would be. Round Ireland With A Fridge gets it's world premiere tonight in Cambridge.
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A regular film and video games contributor for What Culture, Robert also writes reviews and features for The Daily Telegraph, and The Big Picture Magazine as well as his own Beames on Film blog. He also has essays and reviews in a number of upcoming books by Intellect.