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OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE

1999, Dir. Michael Corrente
96 min. Rated R.
Starring: Shawn Hatosy, Amy Smart, Alec Baldwin, George Wendt.

Review by Noel Wood

Well, I was initially thinking about occupying this area with two simple words and carrying on with my business. But I felt "Sucks, next!" was a little too good for this review, when I could just as easily tell you why I feel that way.

Now I'm going to catch a lot of flak for dissing OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE. For some reason the pseudo-indie-creatures out there are holding this picture up as their darling. Some have actually paralelled this with last year's RUSHMORE, which is a film that is far from even being mentioned in the same sentence. And for some reason, the typical critics haven't been too harsh on this movie. So I guess that's where I come in.

I was expecting more, I guess. I figured that Peter Farrelly had more up his sleeve. Then again, he wrote this before he and brother Bobby became the "it" boys, and it shows. It's just too bad they didn't improve upon the story a bit before unleashing it on the theatergoing masses. So here I am to pick it apart, bit by bit:

1. The story: Blah. Rebellious teenage boy with a strict father fucks up one too many times and gets sent to private school. He gets in the bad graces of the powers that be right off the bat. But we find out our hero has a heart when he falls for the prettiest girl in school, and furthers the idea with his love for his handicapped younger brother. Anyway, his antics wind up getting the girl kicked out of school, and it's up to him to get her out of her mess. So bad boy makes good, graduates, and gets the girl. Wow. Cliche after cliche rolls right along.

2. The characters: Eh. It's hard to present a character-driven narrative story when the main character gives you no reason at all to care for him. The actor playing Tim Dunphy doesn't give me any reason to sympathise with him. And to make matters worse, his nickname is "Dildo." Clever, huh? The supporting cast isn't much to write home about either. Stereotypes left and right, from the pretty girl that Dildo courts, to the rich schoolmate who weasels his way out of his troubles, to the nerdy roommate who learns how to party, to the stoner buddies that Dildo leaves back home. Even Dildo's father is a generic 1970's gruff and bitter New England working stiff, although Alec Baldwin tries his damnedest to make the character interesting.

3. The script: underdeveloped. Now here lies the one place that this movie could have done some major improving, but it just didn't happen. The emotional lines sound forced. The jokes are recycled or nonexistent. Everything else is just kind of there. One major instance of a script in need of heavy overhaul involves Dildo's dad and his poker buddies (as if that wasn't enough of a stereotype to begin with) discovering that one of their own is--get ready for this--a homosexual. It's bad enough that the scene is absolutely useless to the story. It's even worse that it "magically" comes out after years of these guys' bonding. My biggest beef about the whole thing is that the *only* character in the entire film who seems sympathetic to gays turns out actually *being* gay. And at the end of the film, after they've kicked the evil homosexual out of their poker game, he's back without explanation, yukking it up at his own expense.

Unfortunately, this is the worst kind of dreck that the "independent revolution" has spawned. Dull, forgettable, uneventful little films that are small enough for people to go see them and feel like they're part of the arthouse culture. I used to be able to go see bad movies, pretty sure they were going to be bad movies, but knowing I'd at least get a cheap thrill ride out of them. But OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE is one of those see-it-at-your-own-risk films, where if the movie sucks, it really sucks. There's no neat-looking aliens or gratuitous T&A or cliffhanger chase scenes. Just a really uncharismatic teenage stoner and his quest to redeem himself. What I probably should have done is saved the money I spent watching this movie and rented DAZED AND CONFUSED again instead. Same time period, same age group, same target audience, but at least Dazed has some spirit.

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