Reviewed by Ned Daigle
Rating: 2.5 Beans
ome may remember the controversy over "Happy, Texas" at last year's Sundance film festival. You see, there was this bidding war amongst the film companies over distribution rights. Miramax won the war, shelling out, if I remember correctly, 2 million dollars, for "Happy, Texas." When the movie opened nationwide, it promptly bombed. The pain for Miramax was probably quadrupled because they had passed on "The Blair Witch Project" which of course made a fortune.
What is the moral of this story? Regardless of your opinion of "The Blair Witch Project", you have to admit it was a fine example of original filmmaking. It turned heads, it piqued curiosity. And love it or hate it, it prompted a true heartfelt reaction. "Happy, Texas" is simply an assembly line, feature-length sitcom that studios churn out every other week. Audiences had been there and done that.
"Happy, Texas" is nice enough I guess, but it is a case of missed opportunities. The setup is thus: two convicts escape from a road crew, they steal an RV that belonged to a gay couple who specialize in beauty pageants. Anyway, the two wind up in a town called, yes, Happy, Texas, and, of course, this is the town the pageant directors were supposed to be in anyway. Coincidence? Maybe. Contrivance? You betcha. So now the convicts have to pretend to be David and Steve, a gay married couple, and they have to organize a beauty pageant for several young girls. Ha ha.
Now this setup has tons of potential for high comedy. Mel Brooks or the Farrelly brothers could have done wonders with the material. However, the filmmakers wanted to go the easy, sincere, sweet route, and we get a much lesser film for their troubles.
The convicts decide that while in town they will organize the pageant until they can rob the local bank. One of them decides to befriend the female owner to get the key and the vault combination. The other, all I remember is that the character's name is Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr., watches a few pageants on tape, and miraculously becomes a hit with the contestants.
The movie's only high point, is the character of the Happy, Texas sheriff played by the always great William H. Macy. The sheriff is a closeted homosexual and falls in love with the same convict who is befriending the banker. Macy's performance is subtle and realistic and when he is spurned, you feel genuine sympathy for his character. We care about what happens to him. Unlike our opinion of everyone else.
This all culminates with a showdown and shootout at the bank, all of which happens during the big pageant. Can the convict ever express his true love to the banker? Will the girls when the big statewide pageant? Do we care? Maybe. But the movie doesn't even give us a payoff to who wins the big pageant.
The guys go back to prison, better men than they were before. Oh well. Such is the plight of the on-the-road gay pageant director.
"Happy, Texas" is sitcom lite of the most sickeningly sweet variety. Predictable and uninspired, it evaporates from memory mere seconds after viewing it.
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