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My Giant

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: My Giant

Starring: Billy Crystal, Gheorge Muresan
Director: Michael Lehmann
Rated: PG
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: April 1998
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Kathleen Quinlan, Joanna Pacula, Zane Carney, Rider Strong, Steven Seagal, Harold Gould, Doris Roberts, Philip Sterling, Heather Thomas

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

"What should I wear," asks Max, a 7'7" man played by Gherghe Muresan in director Michael Lehmann's leviathan movie. "Stay away from vertical stripes," quips his best friend, Sam (Billy Crystal), in one of the many throwaway lines of this sentimental comedy. "My Giant" starts off like something out of "Saturday Night Live" and ends up like the conclusion of a Frank Capra film, mixing shtick, sentiment, pathos and Hollywood satire in a brief story which works well because of the chemistry between its two principal performers. The long and short of it is that Billy Crystal, one of our most natural and funny comics, teams up beautifully with Gheorghe Muresan, a Romanian basketball player for the Washington Wizards, as an unlikely duo who teach each other some of the most valuable lessons that could be offered about life. Each needs the other almost more than he can imagine. Sam, a second-rate, flat-broke talent agent, requires an actor who can generate income for him. Max, a lovesick man living a secluded life in a Romanian monastery, pines for his childhood sweetheart whom he cannot contact without Sam's help. Thinking that he is doing far more for his gangly pal than he can ever get in return, Sam recovers his innocence and learns to get a life.

For Billy Crystal fans the opening scenes are a gem. His character, Sam, is driving through Romania to meet a young actor who has employed him and who is now filming a juvenile action movie complete with shields, swords and cornball dialogue. To avoid a flock of sheep that suddenly cross his path, he swerves, flips over, and is about to drown when he is saved by what appears to be two giant hands-- which he assumes are those of God Himself. Waking up before a team of silent monks looked over by a large crucifix, he believes he's in heaven, but the wrong one: "My real name is Kaminsky...get my drift?" he quips in the movie's greatest one-liner. Upon hearing an explanation from the 7'7" man who saved him and who speaks fluent English, Sam believes that this Max is just the guy who can save his career, one who can act scary and perform the role of villain in many movies to come. As the two fly--first to New York where Sam sees his estranged wife Serena (Kathleen Quinlan) and adoring son Nick (Zane Carney), then to Vegas on the way to Gallup, New Mexico, where Max's childhood sweetheart resides--their friendship deepens. Sam soon learns a dismal truth about his pal which changes his ideas about the meaning of success and fulfillment.

While some in the audience may not easily swallow the sticky sentimentality that informs the final one-third of the movie, "My Giant" is overall a likable film which, like many others of the genre, begins with a barrage of sallies, runs into the zaniness of cultural misunderstandings, and concludes with the warm fuzziness which Crystal is so capable of bringing off. While Muresan may never achieve the superstar status which Billy Crystal enjoys, his enthusiasm for acting can be traced back to the very preparation he made for the role. Unable to speak much English at first, he was trained by Crystal who had the large man read the script a great many times and essentially memorize the entire story so that he fully understood his role. Life followed art in Pirandellian fashion as both actor and his character struggle to master a role that neither ever intended to pursue.

"My Giant" is not a major comedy or, despite the nature of the eponymous character, a very original idea, but it should please a diverse audience of assorted ages with its message of tolerance and family values. The picture is acted well and features lovely country scenes filmed in the Czech Republic, which doubles for Romania.

Copyright 1998 Harvey Karten

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