HAPPY, TEXAS Image

HAPPY, TEXAS

By Chris Gore | February 1, 1999

Perhaps the most commercial film to ever come out of Sundance, this year’s most talked about film is a high concept comedy that owes more to “Some Like It Hot”, “We’re No Angels” and “Nuns on the Run” that it does to classic Sundance fare like “sex, lies and videotape” or “Brother’s McMullen.” Nonetheless, it’s an entertaining indie comedy that can play to most small towns and general audiences throughout the United States.
Here’s the pitch (which this film definitely was): Two ex-cons escape from a West Texas chain gang and must pretend that they are GAY beauty pageant talent consultants in the small town of Happy Texas. You get it? These rough, scraggly men must put on the illusion that they are sensitive, fashion conscious lovers who know more about the Little Miss Fresh-Squeezed Beauty Pageant than they do about bank robbing and explosives. Hijinx ensue. Slowly the closet-gay sheriff starts hitting on one of them. The other one starts getting in touch with his feminine side. You know the rest, the big pageant finale, the car chase, etc.
It’s a good film, it’s just seems better suited with a studio logo in front of it. The acting is excellent, especially Steve Zahn as the convict who slowly learns the joy of sewing and baton twirling before doing the horizontal mambo with Illeana Douglas. Also hilarious is William H. Macy as the gay sheriff who has a twinkle in his eye for ex-con Jeremy Northam. The set-up is so strong that it’s impressive to see it progress so effortlessly. The humor is consistent scene after scene, darting to the end, where it finally starts to suffer from the pitfalls of so many Hollywood films, that is predictability and cliche. Director Mark Illsley has proved that he can direct Hollywood comedies at used car prices. I can’t wait for him to tackle a story with a little more meat on its bone.

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