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By Doug Brunell | March 23, 2003

About a week before viewing “Milwaukee, Minnesota,” I found myself engaged in a lively discussion with a manic depressive SSI recipient. He and I debated the merits of intelligence versus stupidity. He thought it would be easier to be a moron because you’re “always happy” due to the fact that you don’t know about all the “bad stuff” in the world. I told him that intelligence was always the way to go because stupid people are easily exploited. This film couldn’t have come at a better time because it’s all about exploitation and people who aren’t exactly all that bright.
Allan Mindel’s film isn’t as harsh as the cold weather that invades its every frame, and it isn’t as simplistic as the people it showcases, but it does give viewers a good idea of what it must be like to have more money than you know what to do with because you’re just a bit slow. And while this doesn’t go the made-for-television-movie-of-the-week route, it still has one of those unrealistic endings that we’ve come to expect from far too many movies.
This subtle crime drama revolves around Albert (Troy Garity), a young retarded man who has made a mint winning ice fishing contests. While God took away the skills necessary to do his taxes, he did give him the almost Marvel Comics-like super power of being able to “hear the fishes.” Whatever that power is, it works; he has more dough than the average mentally disabled ice fisherman or woman. This, of course, means that nearly everyone in his life is out to get his money or, as in the case of his mother (Debra Monk), keep him away from the real world.
The money grubbers include Tuey (Alison Folland), who is a blonde white trash scam artist interested not only in Albert’s money but his possibly gargantuan penis; Tuey’s brother Stan (Hank Harris), a teenager who thinks he has testicular cancer; and Jerry (Randy Quaid), a man who enters Albert’s life with the claim that he’s his real father. All these minor criminals want what Albert has hidden around his house, and some are willing to kill for it. As to be expected, there are some twists along the way, but none that are surprising or even that believable. It got so bad at some points that I began to wonder if the writer was the real-life Albert and had somehow managed to pen a movie about his life. That’s a sarcastic statement, but it is tempered by the fact that the movie was actually enjoyable to watch, which can be credited to the actors.
When you have Bruce Dern and Randy Quaid in a movie, you have expectations. Those two rarely disappoint, and that continues to be the case here. They almost cause viewers to forget how Folland’s character is a poor cliché. (And is Folland’s acting to blame for that? Judgment will have to wait until her next movie.) Garity is also able to pull off playing a likable mentally handicapped person who doesn’t come across as being creepy or insulting to an entire group of people, which is what usually happens when a “normal” actor — like Juliette Lewis (possibly a bad example) — plays a handicapped role. (It’s like blackface, but more acceptable.) And while the actors do make the movie tolerable, they don’t save it. A complete script overhaul is the only thing that can do that. At the very least, however, it gave credence to my position that stupid people (and I’m not referring to the Albert character) are easily exploited buffoons. Too bad this film tends to treat its viewers the same way.

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