'Matchmaker' is in love with those Irish charms

October 03, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

"The Matchmaker" is so full of blarney, it practically dances its own jig.

It's so obsessed with Ireland, you'd swear the sky was green.

It's so full of the Irish, you'll walk out of the theater sticking an O' in front of your name and singing "Danny Boy."

And if all that sounds like nothing short of an "Erin go bragh" overdose well, it is. Save for one very redeeming grace.

That would be Janeane Garofalo, whose benevolently cynical demeanor -- not to mention 100-watt smile -- turns what could have been an annoyingly cute pastiche of quirky Irish stereotypes into a charmer that manages to remain just this side of overbearing.

Garofalo's Marcy is an aide to what must be the smarmiest dim-bulb of a senator ever to call Massachusetts home (Jay O. Sanders, in a thankless role that at least allows him a few good lines). Plummeting in the polls, his chance for re-election almost gone, Senator McGlory comes up with a plan: send Marcy to Ireland to find (and exploit) his Irish roots.

It's worked in the Bay State before; the film has portraits of John Kennedy still popping up all over Ireland.

There are a couple of problems. First, the senator has only a vague idea of where he came from and doesn't know a sole Irish soul. Even worse, Marcy shows up in the picturesque Irish coastal village of Ballinagra (bet this place has a leprechaun for a mayor) during its annual matchmaking festival, which means the town menfolk are more interested in marrying her than helping her discover the senator's Irish past.

Milo O'Shea is Dermot, the town matchmaker. Confident in his ability to find Marcy a mate -- even if she insists she doesn't want one -- he pairs her up with Sean (David O'Hara), a lapsed journalist and part-time bartender who's every bit as jaded as she is.

"The Matchmaker" would have us believe Marcy and Sean, kindred spirits that they are, fall for each other. Trouble is, Garofalo and O'Hara generate nary a spark between them, much less the full-throttle electricity the story calls for.

What Marcy/Garofalo does fall for is the Irish, and the real joy of the film is watching Marcy's crusty demeanor slowly get chipped away. The final break comes when she's asked to judge a singing contest at a local bar. Told the winner's prize is a kiss from the judge, her face explodes into a luminous grin that says, "OK, you've got me, I'm charmed."

Viewers may very well have the same reaction.

'The Matchmaker'

Starring Janeane Garofalo, Milo O'Shea and David O'Hara

Directed by Mark Joffe

Released by Gramercy Pictures

Rated R (language)

Sun score ** 1/2

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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