Outside Providence

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson


Disney, widescreen 1.85:1/16x9, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC], French Digital Stereo, subtitles: none, single side-single layer, 15 chapters, rated R, 96 min., $29.99, street date 3/14/2000.

Studio Line

Directed by Michael Corrente. Starring Alec Baldwin, Amy Smart, Shawn Hatosy, Jon Abrahams, Tommy Bone, Jack Ferver.

From the hit-making Farrelly Brothers - the guys who brought you There's Something About Mary - Outside Providence stars Alec Baldwin in an outrageously funny story about a kid who's grown up with nothing but a broken home, a three-legged dog and a full-blown attraction to trouble! Everything changes for Timothy Dunphy (Hatosy), however, when he crashes into a parked police car…prompting his loudmouthed old man (Baldwin) to ship him from their blue-collar town to a snobbish prep school! But even though he's out of place, outclasses and seriously outnumbered, nothing could have prepared Tim's new classmates for him! Also featuring Amy Smart, George Wendt and a great soundtrack of '70s hits, this acclaimed hit brings you more of the sidesplitting laughs you expect from a Farrely Brothers comedy!

Picture/Sound/Extras (A-/A-/F)

My dislike of the films created by the Farrelly brothers - Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin and ...There's Something About Mary - has been pretty well-documented. So why in the world did I bother with their most recent effort, Outside Providence?

For one, it's actually not directed by the brothers. The story comes from a semi-autobiographical novel by Peter Farrelly that relates to his experiences growing up in Rhode Island in the 1970s, and the script was adapted by Peter, brother Bobby, and director Michael Corrente. The Farrellys also coproduced the film.

As such, although Corrente directed the movie, since the Farrelly stamp is all over it, one might expect it'd be just like their other crude offerings. However, all the word on it said that wasn't the case. That's the other reason I thought I'd give it a shot, out of curiosity to see if something from the Farrellys can be anything other than disgusting and puerile.

While OP offers some similar humor - vomit and masturbation jokes, and a great deal of drug use occurs - it does venture into somewhat different territory for the Farrellys. While their previous efforts were essentially cheap slapstick comedies, there's very little physical humor in OP. Really, it's much more in the "coming of age" genre than the desperate gross-outs of their other films.

While this broadening of horizons is admirable, it doesn't mean the film itself is anything special. Oh, it's a competent and mildly entertaining effort, but it suffers from a severe case of the "been there, done thats" since we've seen about a million other movies along these lines. We have the "fish out of water" element as our protagonist Tim (Shawn Hatosy) - also called "Dildo" by his somewhat abrasive (but ultimately good-hearted) father - leaves his working class stoner environs to attend a posh private school. We also get the broad romance of Tim's first love, and we witness his battles against unjust authority. It's all reasonably watchable for pretty tired stuff.

OP also suffers from the fact that it proceeds in fairly abrupt ways. Tim and his love Jane (Amy Smart) have barely met when they're already cavorting in the grass; I couldn't help but feel that I missed a step. And one minute Tim's a terrible student, the next he's cranking through classes.

Events just kind of happen for no apparent reason, and conflicts magically disappear. at the start, we see one student who appears will become Tim's nemesis, but later view the two as apparent friends. How'd that happen? There's also a bizarre subplot in which Tim's father (Alec Baldwin) and his poker-playing cronies discover that one of their group is gay. Although they initially react violently, they obviously accept this orientation, as we later see them all "buddy-buddy" again. You know, I guess that transition's possible, but that crew seemed rather reactionary and not too open-minded, so I have a bit of a hard time believing their acceptance; it might have worked better if we'd seen some development.

Though largely predictable and often farfetched, OP isn't without any charm. For the most part, the decent cast makes the film watchable. Hatosy's no Olivier, but he manages an amiable charm as the likable lunkhead, and Baldwin seems gruff but lovable as his dad. I didn't completely buy the rather severe personality turns displayed by Dad, but Baldwin helps make the changes more natural.

Outside Providence appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. One might expect such a recent film to look great, and one would be right in this case.

Sharpness seems consistently good, with most images appearing clear and crisp. At times, a small amount of softness intrudes, but it's pretty mild and not a serious problem. Moiré effects are absent, but I saw a few instances of some slightly jagged edges, and I also witnessed a few artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV. The print itself looked clean; I noticed no evidence of grain, scratches, speckles or other flaws.

Colors looked lovely; the movie maintains something of an "autumn" mood, so most of the hues fit that motif, and they all seem warm and vibrant. Black levels are deep and rich, and shadow detail appeared nicely heavy but not overly dense. All in all, it's a very fine picture.

The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack lacks ambition but it does a good job of enhancing the experience. The forward soundstage dominates and offers a nicely broad image from the front three speakers; quite a lot of audio comes from the front right and front left channels, and it creates a vivid impression. The rears kick in with occasional effects and music and do a nice job of supporting the mix.

Quality seems very good. Dialogue always sounds clear and natural, and I had no trouble with intelligibility. Effects are crisp and realistic, and music - which mainly consists of rock songs from circa 1974 - seems clean and full-bodied (though I would have liked a bit more bass). You probably won't use the soundtrack of OP to show off your system, but it's a strong mix nonetheless.

Much less compelling are the DVD's supplements. There aren't any - no trailers, no production notes, no biographies - no nothing! That's pretty inexcusable for such a recent film.

Overall, Outside Providence is a reasonably amiable and likable movie, but not one that does anything terribly well. It's generally competent but suffers from some odd breaks in logic that harm it as a whole, and it also tends to seem pretty predictable and formulaic. The DVD offers very good picture and sound, but it completely neglects to feature any supplements. Outside Providence might be worth a rental if you like this kind of semi-nostalgic piece.

Related Sites

Current as of 4/4/2000

Official Site--The site takes incredibly long time to load the splash image. Once it's done, there's little interesting contents to make it worth waiting for.
James Berardinelli's ReelViews--"Outside Providence effectively treads the line between comedy and drama, providing us with an enjoyable confection that's neither too leaden nor too airy."
Amazon.com--Available to purchase are the DVD at special discount and the original music soundtrack featuring various artists.
Reel.com--Purchase the DVD at special discount.

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