Happy, Texas

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Happy, Texas

The name of Steve Zahn's character in Happy, Texas is Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. If you find that side-splittingly hilarious—and, judging from the film's wildly positive reception at this year's Sundance Film Festival, many do—then brace yourself for the edgiest fish-out-of-water comedy since Police Academy: Mission To Moscow. First-time co-writer/director Mark Illsley's dreadful sitcom raises some troubling questions about the relevancy of American independent cinema, not to mention films featuring redneck ex-cons posing as gay children's-pageant choreographers. Zahn and a miscast Jeremy Northam star as bickering escapees from a West Texas chain gang who steal an RV filled with girls' sequined dresses and costume jewelry. In an unlikely turn of events, they stall out in the very town where the RV's gay owners were expected to stage the Miss Fresh Squeezed beauty pageant, assuming their identities to keep from arousing suspicion. What follows is more or less predictable: Will the rough-hewn Zahn shout obscenities at little girls to comic effect? Yes. Will the quirky, good-hearted locals eventually warm to their coarse visitors? Yes. In a moment of shameless, slathered-on pathos, will the camera linger for an eternity on sweet, mustachioed gay cop William H. Macy as he sobs in a bathetic heap? Woefully, yes. A flat, artless, drearily sentimental knock-off of Waiting For Guffman and Some Like It Hot, Happy, Texas points to the ever-widening gulf between the wealth of talent in front of the camera and the dearth behind it. Without Zahn, Macy, and Illeana Douglas, it's inconceivable that such a creaky screwball farce would garner so much attention. To say that Happy, Texas inches the independent movement a little closer to Hollywood would be an understatement; it's more like bad television.