Boston Globe, October 18, 1999, David Brudnoy
George Forman reminds us that he named all his sons George, but a
character in this genial comedy goes one better: He is named Wayne Wayne
Wayne Jr. (cocky Steve Zahn), and he and his partner of convenience,
Harry Sawyer (English actor Jeremy Northam, unconvincing as an
American), find themselves - escaped convicts - assumed to be homosexual
pageant organizers hired to train a bunch of no-talent preteens to
qualify for the Little Miss Squeezed Pageant. This is an honor that has
always eluded hickish Happy, Texas, so the town hired the two guys whose
Winnebago our heroes have stolen. When the cops sidle up to the vehicle,
they think the fellows inside are the ones they've hired.
The movie plays out on several angles. There is of course the mistaken
identity gambit, wherein two straight guys, thought by everyone to be
homosexual -- and treated with a kindness perhaps a bit too generous, in
reality, for the locale -- are attracted to women and want to be taken
seriously as swains. Well, at least Harry realizes soon enough that he's
turned on by the town banker (Ally Walker), who doesn't have many likely
candidates as her boyfriend in this backwater but can't think of Harry
as anything but gay. The other guy, Wayne Wayne (etc.), only slowly
realizes that the lady (Illeana Douglas) who has been trying to teach
the little girls has charms worthy of his bantamish affections.
Another and the second funniest bit in the movie is Wayne's bumbling
efforts to mentor the little girls. This guy is a total klutz but he's a
plugger, and there's money awaiting him and his partner when the
training is completed, so he wades in and does his best. You may cringe
watching Wayne educate himself in the fine points of pageantry.
The third, and funniest, ingredient is the unfolding secret of the town
sheriff, Chappy Dent, played with plaintive doe eyes and a hang-dog
expression by William H. Macy, increasingly one of the cinema's most
reliable character actors. This is a man with a heart as big as Texas
and an inferiority complex to match, and just how he sheds himself of
his self-doubts is at once funny and poignant.
There is also some danger afoot, as a bad guy from our heroes' prison
time comes to town to do some damage and steal some loot from the bank.
But the comedy so clearly is on the genial side that we never for a
minute think that anything terrible will happen to anybody we care for.
We come in short order to care for almost everybody in the movie: doofus
yokels, sexy banker lady, gawky Wayne Wayne (etc.), debonair Harry,
moony sheriff, even the awkward girls who try so hard to master a few
dance steps and make their way, they hope, to the finals in the Little
Miss Squeezed Pageant. Whether or not you'll want to squeeze any of the
little girls is open to question - they're all too wholesome for words -
but you'll find the town engaging and the performances, especially
whacky Steve Zahn's, winning.
Co-written (with Ed Stone and Phil Reeves) and directed by Mark Illsley.
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