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Movie Reviews

Say It Isn't So  

Chris Klein...............Gilly Noble
Heather Graham............Jo Wingfield
Orlando Jones.............Dig McCaffey
Sally Field...............Valdine Wingfield
Richard Jenkins...........Walter Wingfield
John Rothman..............Larry
Jack Plotnick.............Leon
Eddie Cibrian.............Jack Mitchelson
Mark Pellegrino...........Jimmy
Brent Hinkley.............Streak
Henry Cho.................Freddy
Richard Riehle............Merle
Brent Briscoe.............Vic Vetter
Sarah Silverman...........Gina
Lin Shaye.................Nurse Bautista

Directed by: J.B. Rogers Written by: Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow Rated R for strong sexual content, crude humor and language

Say It Isn't So
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Poor Chris Klein. Boy, I really felt bad for him watching the insipid would-be comedy "Say It Isn't So." I'm not referring to the character he portrayed, but rather the actor himself. He just isn't seasoned enough to realize the material he was handed simply had no chance.

The dynamics of the movie's central problem are summed up perfectly by Roger Ebert, who states: "The movie doesn't understand that embarrassment comes in a sudden painful flush of realization; drag it out, and it's not embarrassment anymore, but public humiliation, which is a different condition, and not funny." Certainly true, yet I'm willing to bet oversights of the sort are sometimes inevitable with regards to filmmakers who approach comedy in a manner similar to the Farrellys. When constantly seeking out ways to further push the envelope of raunchy humor, the realization of the main character's need to be clever, likable, and eager-to- please probably rests more with the actor playing him. Both Ben Stiller and Matt Dillon understood it in "There's Something About Mary," Woody Harrelson understood it in "Kingpin," but Chris Klein doesn't get it. There's no sudden painful flush of realization in his performance; instead, a perpetual look of befuddlement, like a deer frozen in high-beam headlights. He makes the unfortunate decision to play it straight; great for eliciting pity, not great for eliciting laughs.

Klein plays Gilly Noble, a lonely soul who grew up in an orphanage and now makes a quiet living as a dog catcher. His days of romantic solitude are numbered when he meets the clumsy yet spirited Jo Wingfield (Heather Graham). She has just moved into town and taken a job in the local barber shop, despite possessing a stronger knack for lopping off body parts than hair strands. They get to know each other, fall in love, then face a stunning turn of events; a dimwitted P.I. (Brent Briscoe) informs them of their familial link as brother and sister. Consumed with shock, Jo runs off to the quiet town of Beaver, Oregon while Gilly mopes around town in a pity-induced stupor, repeatedly enduring wisecracks from the other citizens regarding his fireside fling. Later he learns that a mistake was made and they in fact are not related. Gilly subsequently treks to Beaver hoping to arrive before Jo marries her ex-love, the rich and arrogant Jack Mitchelson (Eddie Cibrian). Jo's trash-talking mother (Sally Field) has other plans, as she would much rather have her only daughter marry into a rich family. A plot ensues to keep the young star-crossed lovers apart.

Instead of helming the movie as directors, Peter and Bobby Farrelly this time hand the reigns to longtime assistant director James B. Rogers. The screenplay was penned by Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow, in addition to a polish by the Farrelly's themselves. The jokes are all in place but amazingly, they all fall flat. Resting along the top of this cinematic landfill is the premise. Basing the story around the notion of incest (albeit mistaken) is the wrong move; not because one may find it offensive, but because it's not as large a springboard to humor as it may first appear. In fact, the only noticeable gags bred from it are cruel sentiments scribed on Gilly's dirt-laden truck. (The word FORD "-icator" has been etched along the back. Ho-hum.)

The film also has an annoying habit of setting up potential gags but not executing them. Take for example the character of Dig McCaffrey (Orlando Jones), a legless pilot who feels for Gilly and helps him in his endeavor. He moves with the use of artificial limbs that come apart with relative ease, similar to the Woody Harrelson character losing his bowling hand in "Kingpin." The difference between the two situations is that Harrelson's missing hand was the setup, resulting in numerous sight gags. Not all the jokes worked, but the Farrelly's left no comic stone unturned in their efforts. Here, there are no real jokes launched off the notion of a pilot missing some noticeable limbs. Sure, it's cruel to crack jokes at the expense of the handicapped, but it's more cruel to consider the fact that one is handicapped to be a joke in itself. Here, we're expected to laugh merely at the sight of a legless pilot; not a wise move.

Oh, well. The Farrelly's will rebound. My appreciation for twisted comedy will return. True, I did lose a few dollars and a couple hours of my life, but I should recover. Then there's Chris Klein, poor guy. He'd best view this as an educational experience, making him cognizant of what to avoid in the future. The kid's learning ... the hard way, perhaps; but he's learning.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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