Saturday, May 2, 2009

Say It Isn't So (2001)

Directed by James Rogers
Starring Heather Graham, Chris Klein, Sally Field
Rated R
USA

"Do you know what the Bible says about fucking your own sister? Don't."

Although it's less than ten years old, there's something oddly quaint and antiquated about Say It Isn't So. Directed by the co-producer of There's Something About Mary, it carries all the earmarks of the Farrelly Brothers' short-lived comic reign: a village of idiots, adolescent gross-outs, and most importantly, a well-meaning but bumbling hero who is constantly humiliated and mistreated by everyone around him. This sort of role usually goes to Ben Stiller, but in this case, the abuse is heaped on aw-shucks nice guy Chris Klein, the blandly handsome semi-star of American Pie. Another sign that we're dealing with a pre-Apatow comedy is the love interest: Heather Graham. It's almost laughable to think of her getting top billing in a Hollywood film at this point, but in the dark days of '01, the golden-haired, alabaster-skinned beauty was still being fast-tracked to movie star status, hustled and bustled by producers and money-men who were sure this adorable, doe-eyed, young(ish) actress was the next Sandra Bullock, if not the next Sandra Dee. That never really worked out - she pretty much peaked in the late 90's with Boogie Nights (1997) and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) - but you can still see the glimmer of glamour in her here. Even in a dumb shock-comedy about incest.

Gilbert (Chris Klein) is a small town dog catcher, a friendless orphan reduced to spending his Friday nights having awkward dinners with his boss Larry's dysfunctional family.
"Why don't you have a girlfriend?" asks the boss's tow-headed son Buddy over take-out spaghetti. "Dad says it's because you're confused about your sexuality."
"I believe the term he used was 'fagnostic'", says Larry's teenage daughter Cher (Courtney Peldon). Annoyed, Larry tries to send her to her room, but she refuses.

"She's always doing whatever she wants," Larry complains. "Like getting her ears pierced."
"I got my ears pierced because I like it," she says. Then she rips open her shirt to reveal a pair of oversized pendants hanging from her nipples.
"And I got these because I hate you."
And that's Gilbert's life, pretty much.

Gilbert starts to notice that his co-workers are all getting terrible haircuts, and after asking around, he finds out why: there's a new hairdresser in town, Josephine (Graham), and although she cannot cut hair to save her life, she's gorgeous enough to get away with butchering dudes' heads. Gilbert decides to get a haircut himself and, despite the fact that Jo cuts his ear off, he falls head over heels for her. They start dating, and, naturally, Jo wants Gil to meet her parents.

Jo's dad, Walter (Richard Jenkins) has just had a debilitating stroke. That's why Jo's moved back to town, to help her Peggy Bundy-esque mother, Valdine (Sally Field), take care of her. Despite her teased hair, tight pants, and boozy breath, Valdine imagines herself to be someone of taste and distinction, so she's not exactly thrilled when Jo brings home a lowly dogcatcher.

A word, if I may, about Sally Field. This doesn't get addressed very often, but Sally Field is totally, utterly hot. It is a combination of many things, surely: the petite, lithe frame, her ice-melting smile, the teacup-shaped breasts, those half-remembered Gidget memories, that nutty Oscar speech, that time she walked away from a plane crash without a scratch, Smokey and the Bandit, who knows what else. She was 55 years old when she made this, and she's still sexier than Graham. I know, you probably never even considered it before - the Flying Nun thing throws people off - but Sally Field = boners popping. And yes, she's done nudity. Not here, but in the late 70's. Now, back to our review in progress.

Despite Valdine's protests, Gil and Jo decide to get married, and everything's going swell until a private investigator shows up to tell Gil some very terrible news: Valdine is his mother. News spreads around town very quickly that he and Jo are having an (accidental, but still) incestuous relationship. Humiliated, Jo leaves town and moves to Beaver, Oregon, where she gets engaged to Jack (Eddie Cibrian), the town's golden boy. Gil moves in with his new mom and dad, and his lonely life goes on.

And then, one day, Leon (Jack Plotnick) shows up, looking remarkably like a younger version of Walter. Seems the detective was wrong. Leon's actually Valdine's son, not Gil. Emboldened by this stunning turn of events, our hero hightails it to Beaver to snatch up his true love before she marries that fuckin' cad Jack. But there are, of course, a few snags to deal with along the way. For one, he ends up running over a legless cropduster pilot named Dig (Orlando Jones). Luckily for him, Dig's a forgiving guy, and instead of suing him, he decides to help Gil on his quest.

And what a quest it is. You remember these kinda movies, right? Gil gets his hand stuck in a cow's ass, wears a beard made of vagina hair, gets beaten up by rednecks, gets thrown into a mental asylum, etc.


Oh, and Sarah Silverman, who plays a cop, blows a dude underwater.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, after Superbad's geek-chic revolution, stuff like this suddenly seemed terminally square, and a lot of Say It Isn't So's attempts at spit-take gags will have you rolling your eyes and wishing for a snarky Paul Rudd cameo. On the other hand, Klein's Gil is a very likable doofus, and you really do end up rooting for him.

Graham doesn't actually have much to do here, but she is very lovely, and you can see why a guy would go to such ridiculous lengths to pursue her. Jones is hilarious, and, as mentioned previously, Sally Field is quite bone-able. So everybody wins, really.

By the way: don't count Heather Graham - or the Farrelly Brothers' brand of super-stupid comedy - out just yet. Both appear to be on the verge of roaring comebacks. Graham's new movie, The Hangover, looks really dumb. And The Farrelly bros next project is the Three Stooges, which looks tragically dumb. So, you know, prepare for the Revenge of the Idiots.

Clip: Say It Isn't So trailer



Availability: Say It Isn't So is available on DVD.

- Ken McIntyre

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