Outside Providence
Director: Michael Corrente
Screenplay: Peter Farrelly & Michael Corrente & Bobby Farrelly, from the novel by Peter Farrelly
Cast: Shawn Hatosy, Amy Smart, Alec Baldwin
NY Distribution Status: now playing (Miramax)

Grade: C

Strike one: the staccato synth solo from The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" fades in under the opening titles. Strike two: Super-8 home-movie footage of little kids at play is cut to Pete Townshend's power chords. Strike three: Hello, expository voiceover narration! The movie was only thirty seconds old, and already I was beginning to slump in my seat; had I known that I was soon to be regaled with numerous dorkily sincere montages -- the falling-in-love montage, the bringing-up-the-grades montage, the gee-I'm-pretty-depressed montage -- I might simply have bolted. In many ways, Outside Providence feels like it was made by somebody who'd never set foot inside a movie theater, and had no idea that he was trafficking in coming-of-age clichés -- how else to account for the introduction of the protagonist's dream girl, who's first glimpsed in what I swear to god is genuinely awestruck, completely irony-free slo-mo? The jokes, meanwhile, often play like rejects from Road to Zanzibar: "Who...who...who...?" our hero stutters when he espies Ms. Right lunging after a Frisbee at 48 frames per second; "What're you, an owl?" his buddy wittily interjects. Perhaps a group of talented thesps manages to transcend the general ineptitude? Alas, no: the cast is uniformly bland, with the notable exception of Baldwin, who's at least memorably awful; his gruff working-class mannerisms are straight from the Slumming Hunk Academy of Labored Character Acting, but his innate charisma gives the picture a lift whenever he's onscreen, even as its shaky sense of verisimilitude collapses. I can't even fully get behind the film's marginally left-wing ethos, much as I'd like to: I'm all in favor of non-judgmental depictions of recreational drug use and subtle, incisive examinations of class consciousness, but if I never have to see George Wendt out himself at the poker table again, just to set up a facile Yokels Can Learn Tolerance Too homily, I'll die a relatively content man.