An overweight alcoholic in red vinyl being confused for a superior life form? It might happen only in Ireland — at least, that’s the attitude of “Zonad,” a fully baked Gaelic nutroll of a comedy confected from equal parts “Pleasantville,” “The Quiet Man” and the old “Carry On” comedies. Co-helmed by John Carney, the director of “Once,” “Zonad” couldn’t be more different from that Oscar-winning romance, or more gleefully unhinged, and as such, it carries with it the sweet smell of a cult hit. Pic will go out on Irish screens later this year.
In the “land of 1,000 welcomes,” the town of Ballymoran (think “moron”) is welcoming stargazers from around the country. Suddenly, there’s a flash in the sky. Could it be visitors from another planet? No one seems particularly unnerved by the idea, and when the Cassidy family — Dick (Geoff Minogue), Mary (Donna Dent), son Jimmy (Kevin Maher) and nubile daughter Jenny (Janice Byrne) — return home, they immediately assume the shiny-suited, helmet-wearing creature on their living room floor is an extraterrestrial, rather than a blind-drunk escapee from a rehab center costume party, which is what he is.
Brothers and co-directors John and Kieran Carney, working from their own script, never make any secret about the identity of Zonad (Simon Delaney). From the beginning, the pic includes flashbacks of his escape from rehab with a fellow inmate (David Pearse), who gets injured during their flight and fully expects to be rescued by a returning Zonad. Zonad, however, becomes far too distracted by the loving reception he gets from the very simple people of Ballymoran — especially its teenage female population, which seems to consist mostly of nymphomaniacs. So he never goes back to get his pal. The chickens, as they say, will come home to roost.
Until the point when Zonad steals the Cassidys’ DVD player and TV (and car), there’s no reason to think “Zonad” is taking place in the present day; the Cassidys are straight out of a ’50s sitcom, except for Jenny, who’s straight out of a Russ Meyer movie. Those of delicate Irish sensibilities might take umbrage at the Carneys’ view of their countrymen, but the movie is too goofy, and funny, to make anyone very upset. At least for very long.
Delaney, who has a sizable fan base thanks to “EastEnders,” is hilarious as the lecherous, very thirsty Zonad. “Your black beer is very nutritious,” he says, draining yet another free Guinness. “What is kissing?” he asks Jenny, hoping she’ll show him. But Delaney is matched, gag for gag and overblown gesture for overblown gesture, by Pearse (“Fifty Dead Men Walking”), whose character limps into town and assumes the identity of Bonad, Zonad’s superior officer in the star fleet (the Ballymoranians, meanwhile, swallowing the entire thing whole). Eventually, the two have to face off in a boxing match, during which the opening theme from “Raging Bull” will be heard, if the laughter doesn’t drown it out.
Other notables in the cast include Byrne, who makes Jenny a combo of St. Bernadette and Bettie Page, and David Murray, who plays Benson, valet to Jenny’s swain, Guy (Rory Keenan), and whose arching eyebrows elevate the entire film.
Production values, especially shooter Peter Robertson’s recreation of ’50s TV sensibility, are tops.