Monday, April 29, 2013

Day One Hundred and Nineteen - Happy, Texas, "Safe, Cliche, but not Over The Top."

You know, there's just something wrong with Happy, Texas... but, also something right.

In the perhaps not-so-proud tradition of prison escape/mistaken identity films like We're No Angels, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, and... Taking Care of Business, I guess... Happy, Texas pairs Jeremy Northam and Steve Zahn as a pair of convicts who steal a gay couple's RV in rural Texas and wind up posing as traveling beauty pageant consultants to the small town that hired them.

I think, nominally, the film is supposed to play on country living and fish out of water tropes, what with the small town folk just assuming any awkwardness from the faux-gay jailbirds is just natural for "them" and the not-too-bright country folk (like the slow gentleman who bids on his own tires at an auction), but things sort of take a turn in the second act when Sheriff Chappy (William H. Macy) reveals that he's gay, himself.

Now, I'm not saying the movie strays too much from its cliches... both of the masquerading convicts are still straight (not breaking any molds there) and both manage to play up the fake-gay for their own benefit, with Wayne (Zahn) taking up choreography and sewing and Harry (Northam) giving the beautiful Joe (Ally Walker) facials and footrubs. It's just that Chappy steals the show as a perfectly normal, perfectly adorable gay man just looking for love in a town where he can't rightly find it.

There's nothing cliche about Chappy. He's every bit a Texas Lawman without the stereotypical racism and bigotry that we, as a culture, have come to expect. He stern, but understanding... an outdoorsman and hunter... and has that quiet wisdom when dealing with folks, both outsiders and locals. Sure, a few things tend to surprise him, like when Wayne and Harry give him cause to believe his own preconceptions about the gay couple he's expecting, but Macy always plays it light and, well, straight-faced.

Honestly, there's not much of a movie here without Chappy.

As much as I like Zahn (That Thing You Do, You've Got Mail), here he is pretty much either a bundle of violent frustration or lust and Northam is just your typical lothario who makes good over the course of the film.

Ally Walker was great as The Profiler, but is pretty much just a placeholder here, with nothing to really chew on emotionally in bonding and romancing Northam as Josephine the Banker. The same can be said for her counterpart Doreen (Illeana Douglas) whose actress often plays the same sort of heavily accented, hick gal. There's really no arc for either of them, just a smooth transition from suspicious to full on head over heels.

Put together, the only thing really entertaining and redeeming about the film is Macy's performance as the Sheriff who is trying to find love. Whether it's the heart to heart over beer (then guns) or the actual date at the dance club (two-and-a-half hours away) or the post-climax revelations, Chappy is what makes Happy, Texas somewhat redeemable.

Personally, I'd rather watch Robin Williams and Nathan Lane playing up the stereotypes in The Birdcage than I would Zahn and Northam faking gay to find themselves in small town Texas, but the film did have a moment or two... but only just that.

I'd say pass, overall, if not for Macy's performance... Happy, Texas is worth a lazy watch if there's nothing else in your queue, but I can't recommend it for much else.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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