30 August 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Who knew? Then again, it makes perfect sense.

Director Michael Corrente's previous films, including "Federal Hill" and "American Buffalo", have dug into the grit of blue-collar environments to understand the rites and rituals of male camaraderie. And the Farrelly brothers' wacky comedies are, at their very core, studies of intellectually challenged, lower-class males who triumph against all odds in the pursuit of outrageous goals.

So perhaps it should surprise no one that "Outside Providence" -- Corrente's film that he wrote and produced with the Farrellys based on Peter Farrelly's first novel -- is such a pleasure. The Miramax release could become a sleeper hit, but this will require careful marketing. Any promotion exploiting the Farrelly brothers might bring in the wrong crowd or at least disappoint those expecting "Dumb & Dumber II."

Not that the film lacks for jokes about excessive drug taking, gross practical jokes, a three-legged dog and a youth whose dad calls him "Dildo". But at its heart, this comedy is an affecting and sometimes sentimental coming-of-age tale about a slacker, 1970s style, from Pawtucket, R.I., who is thrust into a tony prep school.

Shawn Hatosy is outstanding as Tim Dunphy, a 17-year-old who is often his own worst enemy. Like the pals he hangs out with in Pawtucket, Tim has smoked enough dope and downed enough booze in his young life to have killed more than a few brain cells.

His latest scrape with the law forces his old man -- played by a disheveled Alec Baldwin -- to pack him off to Cornwall Academy. There he runs afoul of the dorm master (Timothy Crowe), surrounds himself with a new group of druggies and boozers and, astonishingly, wins the heart of Jane Weston (Amy Smart), the coolest girl in the school.

Corrente lets the audience empathize with Tim but not always sympathize. Many of his scrapes are entirely avoidable, and the upper-class milieu doesn't have the positive effect on him it should. Indeed, it's his blossoming romance with Jane that finally makes him discover the value of study.

Nothing in "Outside Providence" hasn't been examined in countless coming-of-age movies. But Rhode Island locales make much of this feel fresh, and the character work by a mostly young cast, aided by a couple of old Hollywood pros, invigorate the familiar story.

Hatosy's astute performance is winningly supported by Baldwin as Old Man Dunphy and Tony Bone as Tim Younger,'s wheelchair-using brother. (Tim explains his brother's damaged body as being the result of a touch football game where his brother fell off the roof, a line that perfectly captures the pain behind many of the film's laughs.)

Among many in the outstanding cast are Jon Abrahams as the aptly named Drugs Delaney; Jack Ferver as Tim's roomie, who struggles against the memory of ego-deflating hazing; Gabriel Mann as a mendacious upper-class student; and George Wendt as Old Man Dunphy's card-playing pal who has his own secret life.

The various plot threads, including revelations about the death of Tim's mother, all get tied up a bit too neatly in the end. The film suffers from some nostalgic gloss in which the laughs are funnier and the bad things are much less sad than they probably were.

The nostalgia gets reinforced by a lively soundtrack of 1970s hits such as "Band on the Run", "Take It Easy" and "Won't Get Fooled Again".

But realism is not what Corrente and the Farrellys, all native Rhode Islanders, are after. Rather, they are comically contemplating a past that abounded with youthful opportunities, some seized and others lost forever.

OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE

Miramax Films

Eagle Beach Prods.

Producers: Michael Corrente, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

Director: Michael Corrente

Writers: Peter Farrelly, Michael Corrente, Bobby Farrelly

Based on the novel by: Peter Farrelly

Executive producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Billy Heinzerling

Director of photography: Richard Crudo

Production designer: Chad Detwiller

Music: Sheldon Mirowitz

Music supervision: Peter Afterman

Costume designer: Annie Dunn

Editor: Kate Sanford

Color/stereo

Cast:

Tim Dunphy: Shawn Hatosy

Old Man Dunphy: Alec Baldwin

Jane Weston: Amy Smart

Joey: George Wendt

Jackie Dunphy: Tony Bone

Mousey: Jonathan Brandis

Drugs Delaney: Jon Abrahams

Mr. Funderburk: Timothy Crowe

Irving Waltham: Jack Ferver

Jack Wheeler: Gabriel Mann

Running time -- 95 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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