Happy, Texas (1999)
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There are plots within plots that all pull together in the end to make a perfect film. Starting with escaped convicts (Wayne Wayne Wayne played by Steve Zahn and Harry Sawyer played by Jeremy Northam) who have to hide and steal an RV belonging to two gay pageant designers, to discovering the gay lifestyle in a small Texas community (Happy), to finding love in the arms of a doe-eyed banker (Ally Walker ...sorry for the cliché, but she really does have doe-eyes), this movie hits on all aspects of life and puts a hilarious spin on them.
The greatest things about this film were Steve Zahn's acting while trying to teach pre-teen girls how to dance, and William H. Macy's stunning performance as Happy's town sheriff who comes out of the closet.
Always sharp, incredibly funny, superbly paced, this movie's small budget belies its excellent acting and directing.
Few films will tickle your funny bone as perfectly as HAPPY Texas. Watch it. Buy it. Live it!
Two small time criminals skip prison after their transportation vehicle crashes and steal a motor home - however the motor home belongs to a pair of pageant directors, and due to being accosted by the local sheriff they assume their identities.
There are several brilliant moments in this film - not the least of which being when the two find out they are supposed to be gay lovers, and that the beauty pageants are for children rather than the models they were expecting.
The local sheriff is the star of this film as he comes to terms with his sexuality in red neck land, but this was just a lot of fun all round.
Definitely a small time film, but one certainly worth watching.
Harry Sawyer (Jeremy Northam) and Wayne Wayne Jr. (Steve Zahn) escape from a Texas chain gang along with killer Bob Maslow (M.C. Gainey), to whom they just happen to be shackled. When Maslow takes it on the lam, Harry and Wayne steal an RV that belongs to a couple of gay entrepreneurs, David (Tim Bagley) and Steven (Michael Hitchcock), who are en route to Happy to produce a beauty pageant. For personal reasons, the couple do not report the theft of their vehicle. Meanwhile, as this pageant is a big event in Happy, the local sheriff, Chappy Dent (William H. Macy), is on the lookout for David and Steven, and when he spots their RV, he personally escorts them into town, where Harry and Wayne (who quickly catch on and become `Steven and David') are welcomed and handed some money. It doesn't seem like a bad gig considering the alternatives, so they take the money and go along; after all, how hard can producing a beauty pageant be? Suffice to say, being perceived as `gay' is going to be the least of their problems over the next few days. And with that, the merriment begins.
Humor is the main course served up by Illsley in this rather off-beat and quirky feast of funniness, which often takes the road less traveled to come out a winner. It's a comedy with a twist rarely associated with the prevailing attitudes among the folks residing in the good state of Texas, wherein `macho' holds sway and those who wear a badge must necessarily conform to the shadow cast in the image of no less than John Wayne. With Illsley's offering, however, we get to see the other side of the coin, and it's refreshing, as well as funny. In the end we realize that `nature' will have it's way in every conceivable way, shape and form, and there's no getting around it; it's a little thing called `life.' Illsley, though, is not attempting to make a statement with his film, or even send a message of any kind. This is first and foremost a comedy; Illsley's intent is clearly to entertain and to make his audience laugh, and in this he succeeds. He begins with an interesting concept, builds a good story and populates it with some bona fide `characters,' brought to life by a solid cast of talented actors.
William H. Macy just may be the best character actor alive, and his portrayal of Chappy helps to make the case even stronger. His resume reads like a who's who of a cross section of the earth's population: From his memorable turn as Jerry, in `Fargo,' to `Mystery Men's' Shoveler, Walt the director in `State and Main,' Lawrence in `Focus' to his poignant and unforgettable performance as Bill in `Door To Door' and everything in-between, Macy makes whatever character he's playing unique, perfect and interesting. He's a star who can carry a film on his own, or give the kind of support in a smaller role that elevates whatever project he's working on to a higher level; and there are very few actors around who can lay claim to that kind of range and success. As he does with Chappy, he has the ability to make his characters convincing and entirely real, bringing them to life without any discernible trace of Macy the actor to be found. Chappy Dent, for example, is a sheriff in Happy, Texas, with no connection whatsoever to a guy named William H. Macy. It's the highest compliment one can pay an actor, and Macy deserves it tenfold.
In the realm of character actors, it must be noted, too, that Steve Zahn is well on his way to establishing himself among the best of the best. Like Macy's Chappy, in Wayne Wayne, Zahn creates a character with a decidedly unique perspective on the world and his own place in it. And, like Macy, Zahn has the ability to disappear into a role. Consider some of his characters, from Lenny in `That Thing You Do,' to George in `You've Got Mail,' Fuller in `Joy Ride,' to his role here of Wayne, and you would be hard put to find any semblance of the `real' Steve Zahn. He has yet to establish his ability to carry a film on his own, but he has certainly demonstrated how invaluable his presence can be to any film.
Of the entire cast, in fact, it is leading man Jeremy Northam, known predominately for period piece dramas (Mr. Knightly, `Emma,' Sir Robert, `An Ideal Husband' and Ash, `Possession,' for example), who seems to be the fish out of water here. As Harry/Steven, however, he rises to the occasion and gives a convincing performance that is yet another `plus' to the film. it's a role somewhat against type for him, but he pulls it off nicely.
The supporting cast includes Ally Walker (Josephine), Illeana Douglas (Doreen), Ron Perlman (Marshal Nalhober), Jillian Berard (Maddie) and Paul Dooley (The Judge). A feel-good film made for fun and frolic, `Happy, Texas' may take a side door to the humor, but it finds it and makes good on the promise of what `comedy' is all about: Plenty of laughs. 8/10.
Every so often there's a film you see advertised on video/dvd or see on television which you've never previously heard of. It could be because it's a low budget piece which never made it to the cinema and if it did it was for one week, or it could be because of something else. I'm not sure why I'd never heard of this film until it was on television tonight, but what I am sure of is that it's quite good.
In "Happy, Texas" we're presented to the not so original chain gang jailbreak. Two of the three escapees are Wayne Wayne Wayne Jnr (played in usual standard by Steve Zahn) and Harry Sawyer (Jeremy Northam in an unusual comedy role). These two men steal a homosexual couples portable home and eventually end up impersonating the couple in a small town called Happy in Texas. The men are faced with the problems of keeping people believing in them, dealing with their roles as organisers of a young girls beauty pagent, and avoiding falling in love with some of the women townsfolk.
This film is as to be expected really. In Zahn it has a daft, excentric appeal to it, whilst Northam is also good as the more serious partner who falls for the bank owner. Added to these an outstanding, if light hearted, performance by William H Macy as the closet homosexual Sheriff who falls for Northam and we're presented with a happy comedy which might not win any awards, but is going to make you feel good about yourself. Happy is a place named for a purpose. If you watch "Happy, Texas", you might not laugh too often, but you'll certainly come away feeling good to be alive. One to watch when you need cheering up.
I expected this to be a pretty dumb film, but I was surprised in that it wasn't. It was silly, of course, but not dumb. The plotline is ridiculous in theory but is carried out quite well. In fact, I found this movie to be rather sweet and charming, and very funny in parts. Not hysterical, but entertaining.
The thing I was most surprised about while viewing HAPPY, TEXAS was how good the acting was in parts. Every actor was good in both their comedic and dramatic moments. Steve Zahn was hilarious as Wayne, while Jeremy Northam was good in a mostly dramatic role. William H. Macy was excellent as he always is, as was Ally Walker.
All in all, HAPPY, TEXAS is a pretty average comedy. There are some good humorous moments, but they come somewhat few and far between. The pacing is a little too slow and it gets a little boring at times, but it's a cute and fairly original movie. Better than most of its kind and pretty entertaining. 7/10.
But it sure ain't all sweet, as foul language and sex is comic parts of the story, as are two supposedly gay men (they have stolen a camper belonging to two gay mane, so they, two escaped convicts, have to impersonate these guys for a while), a gay sheriff and so on.
The acting is nigh perfect, the story ludicrous, and it is all a great saga, but very modern at that. When Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr teaches the small girls how to dance on scene is one of the funniest scenes I've seen for a long time, and in all it outshines similar films by quite some distance!
If only Stuart Little had some of this energy and love of life, sigh!
It has a solid cast, with roles all well-played, and all who are just a bit shy of being on Hollywood's "A" list - but not because of any lacking talent or appeal.
There are a lot of previous comments here, so I would just add that it is a thoroughly enjoyable film, all the characters likable (even the couple of "bad" guys, in their own way).
You are completely aware of the basic ending of the story from the outset, and can pretty well guess most of the exact details as it moves along. However, this isn't meant to be suspenseful, and, as a quiet, modestly-budgeted presentation, it outdoes most of the "A-list," super-budget extravaganzas by a mile.
This film started a bit slow, but soon afterward it became very funny. Steve Zahn did very well in his role, and he was very convincing as a rough bandit. His solo performance on doing funny movements and pulling silly faces was fun to watch.
I also enjoyed the subplot about the sheriff (William H Macy) and David (Jeremy Northam) a lot. Wiliam H Macy gave a fine performance especially in the scene where they went hunting for hares, and in the scene where David refused him to enter the room when they were preparing for the performance. I could relate to sheriff's character so much that I felt his pain. My heart ached when I saw the sheriff crying on the hill.
I do recommend this film, it is warm and funny!
There are plenty of scenes in Happy, Texas that are laugh out loud funny, but some of the best are those that reveal the growth of the characters as they come to know one another. The dance scene with Jeremy Northam and Bill Macy is a perfect moment: a slice of well-timed physical comedy ("I'm gonna spin ya again!"), but also a window into the development of Northam's character as he comes to know and respect Macy's.
The chemistry between all of the actors is right on the money as well. Each of these characters was alone until Harry and Wayne came to town. When thrown together in the days before the Little Miss Fresh Squeezed Talent Competition, they find romance in the unknown, taking a chance with a stranger and finding it to be worth the risk.
This film is that rare find: a funny, genuinely sweet comedy that dares not to have a dark side. First time movie-makers Mark Illsley and Ed Stone made an independent film on a shoe-string budget that outclasses most films made by major studios. You'll be more than happy that you found this gem.
The DVD is completely loaded: a writer/director's commentary, deleted scenes (which can be viewed with or without commentary), interviews, a featurette, and a handful of music videos. If you loved the movie, the DVD is a must-have.
This is basically a generic romantic comedy with slightly better characters and slightly better actors. Ally Walker is very appealing without being constructed from the start for maximum adorability, like any number of women in bigger budget romantic comedies. Steve Zahn is amusing, but doesn't break any new ground. For some reason I always enjoy seeing Illeana Douglas. Jeremy Northam is fine, sounds American and all, but... why him for this? Why this for him? Sure, it's a step up from Mimic, but after Emma and The Winslow Boy?
The one reason to see this movie is William Macy. He was SO wonderful and open and vulnerable as the sheriff with a secret that I really felt for his plight as you would for a friend. He was really the most developed and likable of the characters here. And I think it's good that the audience (at least as I saw it) is much more concerned with whether he'll end up happy than anyone else.
There were a lot of annoying inconsistencies, like where the two convicts are getting their fabulous wardrobe from. And why Ally Walker seems to have gotten a perm for one scene and then taken it out for the next. But the movie is so slight that it is't worth caring about.
This is one of those Miramax movies that comes out and plays in smaller theaters even though it is every bit as slick, predictable and mainstream as anything else out there. I liked it, but I wouldn't pay to see it. It really is just a long sitcom.
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Let's see, where oh where have we seen this premise before: group of misfits rides into town, shakes up the backward townsfolk, and shows them that life is worth living. Sniff-sniff I smell another rehash of a plot older than time itself.
Happy, Texas is about two small-time crooks who masquerade as gay men to put on a `pageant' featuring little girls in a place called, improbably, Happy, Texas. Just why the town should spring for such an endeavor is never explained, and the end result is a `pageant' that only the parents of the girls would want to watch. I guess a bunch of little girls who sing off key and can barely walk, let alone dance, must be a source of civic pride somewhere in the United States. Typical of Hollywood films, there's at least one child who speaks like an adult and can throw a mean punch like a fifty-year old drunk, dropping a man ten times her weight (if you're a budding screenwriter, for God's sake please PLEASE don't ever write a character like this). There's also a masculine and forthright woman named `Joe' who runs the town bank, and by gum no one is going to tell her what to do. The prevailing notion among Hollywood screenwriters is that if you give the characters some quirky traits you can make them instantly loveable. Who cares about character development when you have a woman banker named `Joe'? The townspeople are broadly-painted caricatures of small-town bumpkins; I guess that's supposed to make them charming.
This film looks and feels so much like Raising Arizona that one wonders if there were some Coen brothers wannabes behind the production of this film, which is really sad because aside from Fargo, any Coen brothers film is largely unsatisfying. Happy, Texas, does not fail to leave the same lingering sense of unfullfillment.
There is no substance to this film. All the actors float over the scenes like two-dimensional cutouts, saying their lines and squinting as they practice their southern accents. There is no sense of urgency or habitation, and everyone seems so involved with themselves that they can barely acknowledge the existence of others. Many, many little self-involved soliloquies dot this film from start to finish as each character thinks the others want to know all about him. Someone please explain to me why Hollywood thinks that characters talking endlessly about themselves is not worse than its polar opposite: action movies where explosions occur every five minutes and the hero utters some inane catch phrase after dispatching twelve attackers.
Plot holes abound. Why did the guy go on the date with the sheriff, for instance? He could just as easily have turned him down. The dialogue is a howler. `There is nothing fuzzy about what I feel for you.' I think that line is from Shakespeare.
I recommend you avoid this tiresome video and find something else. Like the AOL disks you get in the mail, this DVD is suitable only as a coaster.
Since even the premise itself lacks real freshness, the movie must finally be judged on the quality of its execution. This is the umpteenth version of that old chestnut in which two fugitives on the lam find safety by impersonating individuals with personalities completely antithetical to their own (we've seen them many times before - disguised as women, priests, nuns, cruise directors, choir directors, you name it ). Finally unmasked for all to see in their nakedness and shame, such characters inevitably find their redemption in the generous attitudes and forgiving hearts of the people they may have deceived it is true, but also touched in some deep emotional way.
Following slavishly in the footsteps of all these previous films, `Happy, Texas' fairs badly in comparison since, although it sets up a situation rife with farcical possibilities, it never really finds the manic energy or ingeniously convoluted and multi-layered plot structure necessary to the success of such a film. Steve Zahn and Jeremy Northam charmingly portray chain gang partners who, suddenly finding themselves escaped prisoners, stumble into a small Texas town where they are immediately mistaken for a gay couple hired to direct a little girl beauty pageant. The scene in which the two macho men discover the `truth' about the men they are impersonating is genuinely hilarious and betokens many more laughs to follow. Yet somehow, they never manage to develop. For one thing, the men essentially go their separate ways during the majority of the film's running time so the comic tension that exists between them simply dissipates. In addition, the beauty pageant concept is a dud since having these girls be of such a young age gives the men's forcibly repressed heterosexuality no room for comic play. Thus, the comic possibilities inherent in being a straight man trapped in a gay man's body seem strangely underplayed and unexploited. Moreover, both the conventional romances between the lead characters and their respective women and the `unconventional' one between Northam and the suddenly smitten gay sheriff (William H. Macy) fail to result in any real sparks or passion. In fact, the movie as a whole simply lacks energy and imagination.
As director and co-writer, Mark Illsley ruins many of his most promising comic moments by relying on overly emphatic reaction shots and routinely holding them for just a beat too long. More than anything else, movie comedy succeeds or fails based on the delicate rhythm that is established between the spoken word and the edited image. Perhaps, it is this lack of comic grace more than anything else that keeps `Happy, Texas,' likable as it is at times, from fulfilling the promise of its premise and really soaring into comic greatness.
Northam is Harry and Zahn is Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr., both convicts who escape from a crashed van with another convict. The third convict takes off. Harry and Wayne steal a trailer, and then are mistaken for the owners, two gay guys, Steve and David, who are to put together a beauty pageant in Happy, Texas. Deciding to combine their pageant work with robbing the local bank and skipping town, David (Zahn) and Steve (Northam) are surprised to find out that the it's a kids' beauty pageant. Wayne gets stuck getting the girls ready, while Harry befriends the bank owner Jo (Walker) so he can get the keys to the bank and any information he needs.
Since the guys aren't gay, Steve finds himself falling for Jo and David gets involved with Doreen (Douglas), the kids' teacher.
There are some unforeseen consequences, one of which is that the sheriff Chappy (Macy) is gay and declares his love for Steve. Then the third convict shows up.
Very, very funny premise and a very funny script by Ed Stone, Mark Illsey, and Phil Reeves, with Illsey giving brisk direction, Happy Texas is funny, sweet, and crazy. Unlike many comedies today, it doesn't pander to the lowest common denominator with crudeness.
Very enjoyable, with Macy's crying jag the funniest thing in the movie, or maybe Steve Zahn preparing choreography for the girls is the best. Hard to decide. See it for yourself.
Well, this movie is an exception. The plot has as much influence on this rating, as does playing their characters by William H. Macy, Ron Perlman, Steve Zahn, and Jeremy Northam.
Recall watching another "gay comedy" movie, "Birdcage"; situation was much different, yet no less entertaining.
I think "Happy, Texas" is at the same, highest quality movie level as "Birdcage" is, making you laugh, making you think, making you feel. Personally I am a heterosexual, but open-minded one, and I can put myself in shoes of most male-played characters and try to imagine what they feel. I deeply admire William H. Macy and Ron Perlman ("The Hellboy") for their willingness to extend their acting portfolio.
"There is an officer inside. What are we gonna do?" "Admire him, son. He's one big d*cked cop"
Not the kind of action you would expect in Texas. It's much more hilarious than watching ex-prez George Bush Jr fall down from a Segway. It takes a "special" talent to fall down from a Segway. It takes a genius to make a movie like this one.
For a 'dumb' genre comedy it's smart and genuinely funny. It doesn't rely on the cheap/mindless/scatological 'humour' of most others in its category.
The characters are well cast and well developed, giving a richness. W H Macy is brilliant (as usual) and his Sheriff character is very unique. Jeremy Northam is charming and inexplicably watchable (as usual), in a role that takes him outside of his previous square.
I liked the casting choice for the leading lady too - less glam and more about personality fit. Steve Zahn is a comic genius - and I don't usually say that about mostly visual comics. He adds a lot of value and drives much of the laughter.
Recommended for a giggle, with deeper satisfaction to offer than most other 'silly' movies.
This is an adorable, fantastic, off the wall comedy with a fruity twist to the mistaken identity theme. A phenomenal script with excellent dialogue. An absolutely outstanding cast (keep an eye out for Ron Perlman!). Zahn is insane in the best possible way. Northam is subtly superb. Macy is simply brilliant. Looking to laugh to the beat of a different drummer? Visit "Happy, Texas."
Favorite Line(s): "State prisons are leakin' like a macramé diaphragm." "Give me the meanest steak ya got rare, and I mean rare, just dehorn it, wipe its butt and send it in."
Worth a buy.
If you are looking for a movie that is trying to make a statement about gay rights, look somewhere else. I found the "at the dance" scene funny, not because it was two (gay)men dancing, but the humor in seeing someone who is completely out of their element and trying to deal with the situation as best he could. A lot of humor is based on such "fish out of water" situations and this was no different.
Steve Zahn did indeed steal the show. My favorite scene is the one where he (one of the escaped cons)is sitting at the sewing machine and is telling his partner that he can't decide whether to baste or slip stitch the costumes for the girls. I thought I'd die laughing. Another "fish out of water" situation.
Sure it is at times silly and contrived and maybe even predictable. However, it was also sweet, thoughtfully written with regards to gay feelings, well acted for the most part and very entertaining IF you can suspend your disbelief for a short time and appreciate the "fish out of water" comic situations. I think that the people who don't like this movie, are either homophobic, took it too seriously or looked for things that weren't meant to be there.
I think it is one of the most endearing films I've seen in a long time.