Outside Providence

1999, Movie, R, 95 mins

Review

OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE
starstarstarstar
Oh Lord, another '70s coming-of-age story with the requisite gross-out humor and carefully calculated oldies soundtrack; is this really what the world needs? Believe it or not, the answer is yes. And if that isn't surprise enough, be warned: This may be the first time you'll read the words "Alec Baldwin" and "Oscar-worthy performance" in the same sentence. True, the plot is, let's say, time-tested. Young Timothy Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy) is going nowhere in decaying, blue-collar Pawtucket, RI, where he lives with his single father (Baldwin), who calls him Dildo; crippled younger brother; one-eyed, three-legged dog; and a posse of stoner pals, one of whom is actually nicknamed "Drugs." Dunph and company have a marijuana-fueled brush with the law, so one of Dad's mobbed-up friends pulls some strings and gets the kid into a nearby prep school, where he's the only student carrying his clothes in a plastic garbage bag. When he meets patrician beauty Jane Weston (Amy Smart), the de rigeur opposites-attracts romance gets underway, with life-changing consequences for both. But since the script is co-written by the same Farrellys who gave us DUMB AND DUMBER and THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, it's studded with comic set-pieces that are light years beyond bad taste, howlingly funny and — surprise! — sufficiently grounded in reality to have actual emotional resonance. You actually find yourself caring about these characters, even the crippled brother — who's nowhere near the sentimental cliché he sounds. Meanwhile Baldwin (bulked up a la De Niro and playing totally against type), is a revelation, funny and touching as the not-so-clueless dad trying to do the best for his kids under tragically difficult circumstances. Though there's one jarringly false note (involving George Wendt in a cameo), all in all this is probably the most engaging teen period piece since AMERICAN GRAFFITI. leave a comment --Steve Simels

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