1 item from 1999
PARK CITY, Utah -- Pull off your earmuffs and snap on your cellular: There's a very funny comedy playing in competition at Sundance, which is not renown for its light, cheery competitive fare. "Happy, Texas" will bring smiles and belly laughs in "Everytown, USA" and could cash in with some nifty mainstream change for a wily distributor.
A down-home farce, "Happy, Texas" plotwise is smack dab in the middle of genreville. It's the snappy yarn of a couple of outsiders, two escaped convicts who happen into a small burg and are mistaken for pageant producers who are due to help the locals with a beauty/dance show. Schoolgirl beauty pageants are one of those important Texas things, and evidently the townsfolk take it as seriously as they do their high school football.
What makes this thing a hoot is that the cons, Harry (Jeremy Northam) and Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. (Steve Zahn) are not exactly the kind of chaps in touch with their feminine side, and the Happy people are expecting a couple of gay pageant producers. Pulling a reverse "Birdcage", Harry and Wayne take to acting fey as well as trying to muster the wherewithal for the pageant.
Fortunately, the tale involves a lot more than this slapstickish, sexual-misidentity situation, and the two not only get involved with the townsfolk but actually come to be embraced by them. Amid the silliness and farce, there's a lot of heart, a credit to the screenwriting triumvirate of Ed Stone, director-producer Mark Illsley and Phil Reeves, who not only hit the right generic marks but spruce up the narrative with tenderness.
Zahn is downright show-stealing as the dumb-cluck con. His antic mannerisms and blank stares are stoked high with the frustrations of a guy who doesn't catch on real fast. As the smarter, straight con Harry, Northam shows the inner conflicts of an inherently decent man who has always taken the easy road. Many of their exchanges are of the Butch/Sundance variety in their easy give-and-take.
The townsfolk are a well-selected lot. William H. Macy is especially engaging and sympathetic as a decent, lonely lawman, while Illeana Douglas is winningly full of beans as a lively, frustrated school teacher.
Under Illsley's tangy-sweet direction, the technical contributions are a perfect fitting for this off-road lark. Cinematographer Bruce Douglas Johnson's brightly lumed lensings and zingy compositions and Peter Harris' jaunty, homespun music are just the right saucy ingredients.
MARKed Entertainment presents
An Illsley/Stone production
A film by Mark Illsley
Director: Mark Illsley
Co-producer: Glenn S. Gainor
Executive producer: Jason Clark
Director of photography: Bruce Douglas Johnson
Editor: Norman Buckley
Production designer: Maurin Scarlata
Music: Peter Harris
Music supervisors: Emily Kaye, Alex Patsavas
Costume designer: Julia Schklair
Casting: Joe Garcia
Choreographer: Kelly Devine
Sound mixer: Ed White
Harry Sawyer: Jeremy Northam
Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. : Steve Zahn
Sheriff Chappy Dent: William H. Macy
Josephine McClintock: Ally Walker
Ms. Schaefer: Illeana Douglas
Bob: M.C. Gainey
Nalhober: Ron Perlman
Mrs. Bromley: Mo Gaffney
Running time -- 104 minutes
No MPAA rating
1 item from 1999
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