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"OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE"
(1999) (Shawn Hatosy, Alec Baldwin) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy/Drama: Sent off to finish his high school education at a private academy, a seventeen- year-old deadbeat shakes up the establishment but also learns a thing or two about growing up.
PLOT:
In 1974 Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Tim Dunphy (SHAWN HATOSY) is a deadbeat seventeen- year-old who likes to hang out with his friends, including "Drugs" Delaney (JON ABRAHAMS) and Mousy (JONATHAN BRANDIS), getting high and thinking about sex. That's when he's not helping his wheelchair bound younger brother, Jackie (TOMMY BONE), deliver papers or trying to avoid his stern and rough around the edges father (ALEC BALDWIN) who not-so- affectionately calls him "Dildo."

When Tim rear-ends a parked police car while high on pot, old man Dunphy, who spends his time either playing poker with his buddies, including Joey (GEORGE WENDT), or eating ice cream from the carton while watching TV, sends Tim off to a prep school -- Cornwall Academy for Boys -- to prevent his son from serving any time for his crime.

Although he initially sticks out like a sore thumb, with the help of his new roommate Irving "Jizz" Waltham (JACK FERVER), blue-blooded student Jack Wheeler (GABRIEL MANN) and Billy Fu (ALEX TOMA), whose father's pending multimillion-dollar donation allows him to get away with anything, Tim soon begins to fit in. That's actually more so with the school's other troublemakers, much to the chagrin of Mr. Funderberk (TIMOTHY CROWE), the dorm resident director.

Things begin to look up for Tim when he spots and then falls for Jane Weston (AMY SMART), a pretty blond who's looking forward to attending Brown college. While she initially rebukes his advances, the two soon become an item. As the school year unfolds, Tim finds that he must balance that relationship while coping with his dad and the daily tribulations of attending a private and very strict boy's academy, all while learning a thing or two about growing up.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
If someone told you that the latest film from the Farrelly brothers -- the writing and directing sibling team responsible for "There's Something About Mary" and "Dumb and Dumber" -- actually had some heart in it -- instead of just the typical body parts and/or fluids -- you might think them crazy.

Yet, that's actually the case with "Outside Providence," a coming of age story set in the 1970s. Granted, the film isn't directed by the Farrellys, but is adapted by them and director Michael Corrente from a novel that Peter Farrelly wrote before their breakout success in Hollywood. Thus, it's difficult to say whether they're evolving toward more "mainstream" fare, or are "devolving" since this story predates their more recent work. Whatever the case, this is one of their more accessible and entertaining pieces.

That's not to say, however, that everyone will enjoy it. Nor does it mean that the film is devoid of their standard off the wall and occasionally outrageously gross style of comedy. As such, some of the film's humor stems from vomit, masturbation, using a noodle as nasal floss and features disabled people and other politically incorrect moments as sources of comedy.

Not surprisingly then, certainly not everyone will find such material funny, let alone tasteful. For those who do or can tolerate such abrasive and/or risque bits, however, they may just find something resembling a sweet little film residing underneath the more superficial hijinks. Essentially a cross between a coming of age story and a fish out of water tale, the film has a pleasing mixture of outright comedy and truly touching moments and features another great soundtrack of pre-disco '70s tunes.

Now, whether you find a crass and standoffish father's eventual, but reluctant softening as touching depends on how much you may be offended by his behavior and attitude toward his son, whom he oddly, but somewhat affectionately calls "dildo" and makes hitchhike to school. What the film does offer, however, and contrary to most raucous teen-based comedies, is some honest character development that stems from some decent dramatic arcs.

Although none of the characters turn one hundred and eighty degrees and become great, upstanding people, they do partially change for the better. That's certainly a welcomed change for this sort of genre that usually features two-dimensional characters at best.

While part of that credit obviously goes to the Farrellys and Michael Corrente ("American Buffalo," "Federal Hill"), the rest clearly points to the cast and their wonderfully comic and occasionally poignant performances.

The clear standout is Shawn Hatosy, who gets his first leading role after appearing in films such as "The Faculty" and "In & Out." Playing the somewhat slow and deadbeat, underachieving stoner, Hatosy perfectly fits the bill. Occasionally resembling a young and more subdued Tom Cruise character (such as in "Risky Business"), he delivers a great performance even though he's not playing a "perfect" character.

The other performance that will draw the most attention comes from Alec Baldwin ("The Edge," "The Hunt For Red October") as his crass and loudmouthed, working class father. While some viewers may not like his character or find him funny, others will see that Baldwin delivers an outrageous and occasionally hilarious portrayal of the typical hard-nosed and distant father of bygone eras who, upon being turned over, actually had a soft and penetrable underbelly.

As one of the few female characters, Amy Smart ("Varsity Blues," "Starship Troopers") delivers a fine performance as Tim's overachieving girlfriend, while George Wendt (TV's "Cheers") and Jon Abrahams ("The Faculty") deliver decent, if not particularly compelling supporting performances.

Back in the days when this film is set, an old TV commercial for the "Mounds" and "Almond Joy" candy bars featured a jingle that went "Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don't." Well, if you don't feel like a nut and have never enjoyed the Farrelly's brand of risque humor, you probably won't like this picture.

On the other hand, if you're in the mood for some outrageous comedy tempered by some sentimental moments and actual character development, you may want to check out this film. While the combination of such material surprisingly feels a bit odd at times (simply because it's so foreign and uncommon in this sort of film nowadays), if you give it some time, you may just find yourself enjoying this picture. We found it rather entertaining and thus give "Outside Providence" a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed August 19, 1999 / Posted September 1, 1999


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