A film review by Craig J. Koban May 31, 2010
CRAZY ON THE OUTSIDE
2010, PG-13, 96 mins.
2010, PG-13, 96 mins.
Tommy Zelda: Tim Allen / Vicky: Sigourney Weaver / Gray: Ray Liotta / Angela Papadopolous: Jeanne Tripplehorn / Ed: J.K. Simmons / Christy: Julie Bowen / Frank: Kelsey Grammer / Edgar: Jon Gries / Grandma: Helen Slayton-Hughes / Rick: Malcolm Goodwin / Ethan Papadopolous: Kenton Duty
Directed by Tim Allen / Screenplay by Judd Pillot, John Peaslee
The only possible thing that would have made CRAZY ON THE OUTSIDE any more tolerable would have been if its end credits came about five or ten minutes into the film.
are some comedies that are desperate for laughs, but this is a
highly rare breed that rarely even puts forth a modest effort at
all. What’s truly shocking
about this epically dreadful and laughless disaster is that it was
directed by a comedian (Tim Allen) and you would assume that a
professional jokester with his wits intact would be able to take mediocre
material and fly with it. However,
even with a comedic actor at the helm, CRAZY ON THE OUTSIDE is shockingly
unfunny, monumentally trite, and generically charm-free: it makes second
tier TV sitcoms look innovative by comparison.
one thing for a comedy to be laughably wretched, but this one is depressively
so. It also begs me to ask
one simple question: how could Allen assemble such a slew of good,
dependable dramatic actors (like Sigourney Weaver, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and
Ray Liotta) and comedic ones (J.K. Simmons and Kelsey Grammar)
convince them that there was some modest artistic value in making CRAZY ON
THE OUTSIDE? I mean, what
possible motivation would there have been for all of them?
It could not have been a mighty large paycheck (this is an indie-financed
comedy, so money was not aplenty), nor could it have been the script,
which is comprised of, more or less, a series of contrived and
lame skits. My
only conclusion – and only compliment towards the film – is that Allen is
a celebrity with a serious amount of Svengali-like pull and clout:
I not sure what is more damning – the notion that he could
convince all aboard to join this dreadful film or that the actors
lacked sound judgment to say "no" to him.
comedy (ha!) concerns a fresh-on-parole Tommy (Allen) that has just been
released after a three-year stint in the slammer.
He is convinced upon leaving that he is a changed man that wants to
go “clean”. He is picked
up outside of the prison by his loyal sister, Vicky (Sigourney Weaver,
Allen’s GALAXY QUEST co-star, looking clueless and befuddled throughout
the film) and she takes him home to stay with her family, much to the
chagrin of her kids and husband, Ed (J.K. Simmons, who has rarely been
this unfunny). This sets up a
would-be hilarious moment when she reacquaints Tommy to dear old Granny
(Helen Slayton Hughes), a woman so senile that she was convinced by Vicky
that Tommy was in France for the past three years.
I am not exactly sure how Hughes was appropriately cast as Tommy
and Vicky’s grandma, seeing as she barely looks old enough to be their
mother. Go figure.
Nonetheless, this is the start of the film’s endlessly stupid and
recurring gags involving her attempts to become a more francophone relative.
Never once is this funny.
does dutifully meet up with his parole officer, a single mom named, get
ready for this, Angela Papadopolous.
guess long names are meant to be funny.
Anyways, Angela (a lovely and fine Jeanne Tripplehorn, doing what
she can with an underwritten role) is the proverbial by-the-book parole
officer that – wouldn’t you know it? – develops a soft spot for
Tommy (let’s just say the blossoming relationship between the pair never
once feels logical nor believable). She's
also a terrible mother, seeing as she allows her young son to visit her
at work, which is populated by oodles of ex-cons (she constantly states in
the film that she does not want to expose her son to harmful
stimuli…huh?). Tommy tries
to convince her that he wishes to re-start his father’s paint business,
but Angela needs proof beforehand, so she sends him to work at a
MacDonald’s fast-food clone called Pirate Burger, which pathetically is
used to hatch out every lame pirate joke in the book.
On top of that, almost all of the workers here appear to be
ex-cons. Sure. Right.
get complicated for Tommy, especially when his old friend, Gray (Ray
Liotta, a good actor with an instinct for both merriment and sternness,
but woefully marginalized here) wants to lure him back into the lucrative
business of pirating DVDs for overseas buyers (Tommy took the apparent
fall for Gray years ago, which left him on the streets and feeling like he
needs to return the favor).
Again...I feel like a broken record...but I am not sure exactly
sure how a DVD pirating business could be as lucrative and
profitable as it appears to be here, especially in the age of Internet
downloads (Gray appears to be a multi-millionaire).
Nonetheless, Tommy gets interested when his job at Pirate Burger
and his side-gig painting houses starts to fall through (also completely
implausible is how rich judges would allow a bunch of ex-cons to come into
his home to re-paint it). Things
get really dicey when Tommy is reacquainted with his ex-girlfriend, Christy
(Julie Bowen, the only actor at least trying to generate guffaws), but
that is impeded because she is about to be married to a successful big
screen TV salesmen, Frank (Kelsey Grammar, whose comic instincts are never
once utilized here).
film was written by TV sitcom vets Judd Pillot and John Peaslee, and
rarely have there been more horribly concocted and telegraphed sight gags
and jokes in a film. There
are almost too many scenes to mention, but I will try. Just look at one instance where a porcelain statue of a poodle
comes to life to give an incredulous reaction shot during one would-be
uproarious moment. If that
did not placate my "WTF!?" meter enough, then there is a moment where the
camera goes right through Tommy’s chest cavity to reveal his heart with
a gauge that has detailed descriptions of his current emotional state.
preposterous and inane, but equally moronic and lifeless, is a
confrontational scene between Tommy and Vicky at a dentist’s office in a
room with a patient that is getting novocained up.
The conversation continues and the patient blacks out even further.
as head-smackingly dreadful is a mid-way point sex scene between Tommy and
Christy, during which they repeatedly copulate for hours and hours and the camera juxtaposes images of them with those of satanic
bobbleheads gyrating up and down alongside images of screws being drilled
into wood blanks on a nearby TV. Does
Allen, the director, actually think cheap pallor tricks like are
hilarious? This reveals the former sitcom star as a director of hopeless
detachment: Allen’s framing
of scenes is also lackluster and bland (a sequences where he joyrides in a sports
car through the city is a editorial disaster, as is a terribly phony
looking moment where he’s trying to outrun a freight train). Furthermore,
Allen never once uses his stand-up prudence and intuition to create
comic payoffs and reactions. Could
he not have given gifted screen comedians like Simmons and Grammar better
material to work with? Here
Simmons is delegated to making sexual snide remarks about his wife’s
cleavage and butt and Grammar’s only moment involving a potential laugh
is him being kneed in the groin and then icing the area with frozen peas.
I would rather be some vile convict’s bitch in prison for 90 minutes than sit through CRAZY ON THE OUTSIDE again. What’s mournful here is that Allen is actually somewhat decent in his role: he respectfully underplays Tommy amidst all of the dimwitted comedic moments (Allen is a good actor when given good material: remember his small supporting role in David Mamet’s REDBELT?). Perhaps more confounding about this whole mess is Allen’s real life history behind bars. In the 70’s the star turned state’s evidence to lessen the severity of a coke-possession sentence, and one would think that this would have given Allen some insight into making CRAZY ON THE OUTSIDE a sort of darkly funny, pseudo-biographical look at his own experiences. No dice here, folks, because the film feels more at home with being in the mould of a lowest common denominator screen comedy.
And I do need to emphasize the term “lowest”.