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Outside Providence

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Outside Providence

Starring: Shawn Hatosy, Alec Baldwin
Director: Michael Corrente
Rated: R
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: September 1999
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: George Wendt, Jonathan Brandis, Tommy Bone, Jack Ferver, Amy Smart, Gabriel Mann, Jon Abrahams

Review by Greg King
1½ stars out of 4

Set in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in 1974, Outside Providence is a sensitive but largely uninspiring coming of age tale about a teenage slacker from the wrong side of the tracks who eventually finds wisdom. Somewhat surprisingly, this sensitive coming of age tale comes from Bobby and Peter Farrelly, the film making siblings better known for their deliberately dumb and low brow sense of humour that shaped the clever and hilarious There's Something About Mary and Dumb And Dumber.

Outside Providence centres around 17 year old Tim Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy, recently seen in The Faculty, etc), affectionately known as "Dildo" by his gruff, embittered, widowed working class

father (Alec Baldwin). Tim protects his wheelchair-bound younger brother Jackie (Tommy Bone), and hangs out with his slacker mates (including an almost unrecognisable Jonathan Brandis, best known for his role in SeaQuest). His father plays cards and drinks beers with his close mates, while they discuss such world shattering events as Watergate and whether or not Rock Hudson is gay.

Following a minor traffic accident in which he rear ends a police car while driving without a licence and engulfed in a fugue of drug smoke, Tim is promptly packed off to Cornwall, an exclusive preparatory academy. A misfit and a rebel, he struggles against the strict rules and regulations of the college, and clashes with his humourless dormitory head. Much of the film also focuses on his developing relationship with the beautiful Jane (Amy Smart, from Varsity Blues, etc), who attends the nearby girl's school.

Outside Providence is based on Peter Farrelly's own semi-autobiographical novel, although the material lacks anything of real substance or interest to say. The brothers put their predilection for crass toilet humour and hilarious sight gags on hold, for the duration. They have handed over directorial chores to co-writer Michael Corrente (American Buffalo, etc), who brings a touch of restraint and sensitivity to the material. Lacking eye catching gags about zippers, hair gel, flatulence and dead dogs, Outside Providence is a rather straightforward and bland tale that ultimately lacks broad appeal. It's difficult to feel any sense of empathy towards the characters and their exploits.

The performances from the young, largely unknown cast are solid. Hatosy makes the most of his role as the likeable rogue, but he occasionally struggles with the uninteresting material. Cast largely against type, Baldwin delivers a restrained but insightful and sensitive performance as Tim's gruff but ultimately understanding father, and he brings more complexity to the role than was originally on paper.

Outside Providence is strongly reminiscent of Richard Linklater's 1993 slacker generation comedy Dazed And Confused, although it lacks the same wicked, anarchic edge. The film also lacks anything of real substance or interest to say. Director Corrente fails to imbue this disappointing blend of comedy and drama with any real sense of nostalgia, apart from the superb soundtrack of early '70's hits that will strike a chord with audiences old enough to remember those halcyon days.

Copyright 2000 Greg King

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