Outside Providence Movie Review

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It seems Peter and Bobby Farrelly -- the writing-directing brothers behind the laugh-'til-ya-puke hits "There's Something About Mary," "Kingpin" and "Dumb and Dumber" -- are not all comedy after all.

Their stoner coming-of-age story for "Outside Providence," which they wrote with director Michael Corrente from a novel Peter published in 1998, is more far more bittersweet than funny.

A considerably less creative yarn than the pictures they directed themselves, "Providence" follows blue collar dope-head Timothy Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy) though his stereotypical, out-of-place adventures in restrictive prep school in 1974, where he's sent by his beer-swillin', paunch-scratchin' pop (Alec Baldwin) after getting baked behind the wheel with his loadie friends and crashing into a parked police car.

Dunphy is forced to abandon his buddies and enter a world of slight twists on movie cliches as he bunks with the school geek, finds himself an arch-nemesis in his starched dorm master and romances the unattainable girl (Amy Smart), which is where the film focuses much of its attention.

Early on, it looks like Corrente might take the comedy in a "Kingpin"-like direction with some dark, caustic laughs and sight gags involving Dunphy's wheel chair-bound brother ("We were playing touch football and he fell off the roof.") and his one-eyed, three-legged dog. But by the third reel, the movie is on a rather aimless course toward poignancy, with fond and bitter '70s memories, and occasional lessons about responsibility and becoming an adult.

The sleepy-eyed Hatosy ("In & Out," "The Faculty") is well cast as the endearing dunce Dunphy, who is in way over his head amongst the well-educated, Connecticut rich kids at his boarding school. The same can be said for Smart ("Varsity Blues"), the Ivy League-bound, blue-blooded girlfriend whose academic career is threatened by her caste-busting affair with bad-influence Dunphy.

Alec Baldwin gives his most interesting, off-beat performance since "Miami Blues" as Old Man Dunphy, whose testosterone tough-love tactics include calling his son "dildo."

But like most of the story, that relationship turns to canned sentiment instead of sticking with promise of dark comedy peppered throughout the picture. Late in the film, Old Man Dunphy redeems himself with a tender moment teaching his boy to tie a necktie.

"Outside Providence" occasionally deviates from what's expected of a coming of age story -- in fact the hero never even lays the unattainable girl on screen. Director Corrente ("American Buffalo") does a good job of getting the audience in Dunphy's corner, too, despite the character being a bit of an ignoramus.

But the story goes nowhere while still managing to be largely predictable, and its bound to be a disappointment to anyone roped in by the previews that play up the Farrelly connection. The laughs here are few and far between.

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Outside Providence Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, Opened: Wednesday, September 1, 1999

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