Say It Isn't So (2001)
Directed by James B. Rogers
Cast: Chris Klein, Heather Graham, Orlando Jones, Sally Field, Richard Jenkins, Eddie Cibrian, John Rothman, Jack Plotnick, Lin Shaye.
2001 93 minutes
Rated: (for crude sexual humor, profanity, and mild violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 23, 2001.
Misleadingly billed as "From the creators of 'There's Something About Mary,'" James B. Rogers' madcap comedy, "Say It Isn't So," was merely produced by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, despite offering up a similar brand of their outrageous, raunchy humor. There is one subtle, telling difference, however--the Farrelly Brothers can be comic geniuses who know how to build up a joke, milking it for all its worth as the laughs escalate, while newcomer James B. Rogers is clearly an amateur who is never quite sure how to approach the would-be raucous material.
Gilly Noble (Chris Klein) is a starry-eyed dogcatcher in the backwater town of Shelbyville, Indiana, who becomes instantly smitten with Jo Wingfield (Heather Graham) from the moment he first sees her. Working as a very bad hairdresser who almost cuts Gilly's entire ear off in a freak accident, Jo and Gilly hit it off and share six months of romance and fun. Bad news comes in the form of proof that Gilly's long-lost mother happens to also be Jo's--the money-grubbing, white-trash Valdine (Sally Field).
Switch forward sixteen months, Jo has fled to Beaver, Colorado and rekindled with millionaire ex-boyfriend Jack (Eddie Cibrian), to whom she is planning to marry. When news comes of this, followed by the revelation that Gilly and Jo aren't siblings, after all, Gilly heads for Beavers, dead-set on telling Jo the truth so they can spend their life together, and he can stop the wedding with Jack.
Like 1998's "There's Something About Mary" and 2000's "Me, Myself & Irene," "Say It Isn't So" is, indeed, outrageous and raunchy, but it is never very funny. The incest jokes that arise in the first half are so plentiful and nonstop that it became tiresome almost immediately. It is always obvious where the supposed humorous parts are to be, but they usually fall flat, no doubt because the editing isn't tight enough, the writing isn't sharp enough, and the performances aren't focused enough to warrant success. That isn't to say director Rogers doesn't try his hardest (after all, what other movie could you possibly see in which a character gets his arms stuck in the rectum of a cow by accident); he is simply no more than a novice who would have been better to try a less physical, ribald comedy his first time at bat.
The film is also maddening in the way that it is so fervently stuck with an Idiot Plot, a term coined by Roger Ebert. One thing is for sure: had the characters been just a little smarter, and had Gilly just opened his mouth and told Jo, "I'm not your brother," from the beginning, the movie could have avoided all of its dumbed-down plot developments and been over and done with long before its 93 minutes concluded. Nothing, perhaps, is more frustrating than watching characters consistently dodge the words they should be speaking, just so the plot can run on a little longer and more complications can ensue.
What does work, and is fairly funny, is Orlando Jones (2001's "Double Take") as the legless aerial pilot, Dig, who befriends Gilly after he is hit by Gilly's car, causing his legs to break off and fly through the air. This scene is not only the funniest in the whole picture, but Jones does a delightful job of developing a distinct likability for his character.
Chris Klein (2000's "Here on Earth") and Heather Graham (1999's "Austin Powers 2"), likewise, share a bewitching chemistry together, and their love story works primarily because of the pair's charisma. Every scene they share together works very well, and with only a few minutes of screen time devoted to their romance before they are torn apart for almost the rest of the movie, I believed that they loved each other. In the past, Graham's popularity has been a little lost on me, but with her career sure to be heating up in the next year (with no fewer than three more movies coming out after this one), she has finally hit her stride as an actress. She has been good in the past (1997's "Boogie Nights"), but never so radiant on-screen as she is here. Klein may be the central protagonist, but it is Graham who is the star.
In an out-of-the-ordinary supporting turn, Sally Field (2000's "Where the Heart Is") hams it up as the nasty, greedy Valdine. Field has a field day (no pun intended) with the low-rent particulars of the role, but Valdine is such a mean woman that every scene with her left a sour taste in my mouth. While Field has never quite played a character like this one, she is nevertheless slumming it, and is far too good an actress to be wasting her time in such throwaway parts.
With a hum-worthy pop/rock soundtrack and a generally fast pace, "Say It Isn't So" thankfully never overstays its welcome, but also never is able to get out of the hole it gradually digs for itself with every big joke that causes nothing more than a lot of eye-rolling. Had "Say It Isn't So" abandoned its lewd, naughty roots and tried to just be a sweet romance, it might have worked better. Klein and Graham prove that they have exactly what it takes to hold up a movie on their own, without masturbation, incest, and necrophilia jokes getting in the way.
©2001 by Dustin Putman