Reviews > Culture

In the spotlight

Culture | Happy

Issue: "More clay than Potter," Oct. 30, 1999

Perhaps the most talked-about movie at this year's Sundance Festival was Happy, Texas, a comedy about two escaped convicts masquerading as homosexual lovers in a small town. Disney (who else?) snapped it up and released it to theatres (via its Miramax subsidiary; rated PG-13 for bad language, sexual situations, and violence).

Happy features two bumbling crooks (Jeremy Northam from The Winslow Boy and Steve Zahn from You've Got Mail) who are accidentally let loose in a prison van crash, then steal an RV, and head for the small Texas town.

Into the mix goes William H. Macy as the Happy sheriff. Actually, he's gay, too-and he falls for one of the crooks' cons. It's uncertain whether the audience is supposed to laugh at or sympathize with this character, who has some dramatic moments when his advances are finally rejected. He comes across as a pitiful, brooding whiner.

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The setting is the standard small town where time stopped years ago and not even the light of McDonald's or Wal-Mart passes through.

Happy, Texas comes complete with a climactic chase sequence and a feel-good finish. The two crooks even find love themselves (with women) and are convinced to call off their big heist.

Thankfully, it comes without a "be who you are" style sermonette. If anything, it inadvertently makes homosexuality look cartoonish, while showing that straight love conquers all. Only a strong supporting cast keeps this from being a forgettable novelty. Filmmaker Mark Illsley's supposed bit of out-of-the-box cinema is really just a comedy of errors.

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