Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Shawn Hatosy, Amy Smart, Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins, Gabriel Mann, Tommy Bone, Samantha Lavigne, Jonathan Brandis, Adam LaVorgna, Jesse Leach, Jon Abrahams, Mike Cerrone, George Wendt, Robert Turano, Kristen Shorten, Timothy Crowe, George Martin, Jack Ferver, Chris Jewett
Written by: Peter Farrelly, Michael Corrente, Bobby Farrelly, based on a novel by Peter Farrelly
Directed by: Michael Corrente
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive teen drug use and strong language including sexual references
Running Time: 96
Date: 08/16/1999
IMDB

Outside Providence (1999)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Missing Misfit

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Occasionally a comedian will get a bug to do something "serious" and "meaningful" that comes from our society's refusal to take the art of comedy seriously. This phenomenon caused Woody Allen to make Interiors (1978) and Bill Murray to star in The Razor's Edge (1984), two interesting but dull failures. Now comes Outside Providence, a movie based on a novel by Peter Farrelly of the notorious Farrelly brothers (Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There's Something About Mary). Farrelly, it seems, wanted to tell a "meaningful" story about growing up and falling in love. Sadly, There's Something About Mary (1998) was a much wiser and funnier movie on the same subject.

Outside Providence begins with a hilarious shot of a long-haired teenage stoner (Shawn Hatosy) riding his beat-up bike. The camera tracks sideways to reveal that he is towing a wheelchair occupied by a younger boy (Tommy Bone) tossing papers onto doorsteps. A further track shows that tied behind the wheelchair is a three-legged eyepatched dog trying to keep up. This shot is pure Farrelly, but the rest of the movie doesn't match its humor.

It's the 1970s, and Hatosy plays screw-up Tim Dunphy, a Pawtucket, Rhode Islander who is sent to prep school after getting arrested for smoking pot. You'd think this would be the perfect opportunity for a great irreverent Cheech and Chong-type comedy (Up in Smoke) or an Animal House (1978). But aside from a few predictable charades, Tim slips right in to the prep school environment and even captures the heart of the prettiest girl in town (Amy Smart). He is just too well-adjusted to deserve the title of misfit. Any remaining vintage Farrelly moments are steamrolled over by large chunks of schmaltzy feel-good garbage. "Outside Providence" also throws in loads of typical 70s songs to evoke the period, including, yes, "Free Bird." No irony intended, either.

On the other hand, Alec Baldwin turns in a fine supporting performance as Tim's father. Baldwin uses a thick East-coast accent, but he still turns into a funny, fully fleshed-out character.

There's Something About Mary succeeded partially because of its smooth blend of bold gross-out humor and a beautiful soul (on loan from Cameron Diaz). Outside Providence feels like two different movies crammed together. It was not directed by the Farrellys, but by Michael Corrente (Federal Hill, American Buffalo), who also contributed to the screenplay. With this movie Corrente turns in a gutless effort more interested in being "sincere" than alive.