Main cast: Jeremy Northam (Harry Sawyer), Steve Zahn (Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr), Ally Walker (Josephine McClintock), Illeana Douglas (Mrs Schaefer), William H Macy (Sheriff Chappy Dent), MC Gainey (Bob), Ron Perlman (Marshal Nalhober), Mo Gaffney (Mrs Bromley), and Paul Dooley (The Judge)
Director: Mark Illsley
Happy, Texas may be a Miramax movie with indie-pretensions, but it is essentially a fluff movie. Too much emphasis on slapstick and too little depth soon bog this movie down.
Harry Sawyer, Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr, and Bob form a trio in a chain gang. One day, an accident occurs that enables them to flee to freedom. Bob goes one way, Harry and Wayne go another. When the latter two steals an RV belonging to a gay couple, they get mistaken as beauty pageant trainers when they arrive at Happy, Texas.
Harry decides that they would stay and rob the bank. So they would try to train the girls in the local school for the Lil’ Miss Fresh Sunshine pageant, but in the meantime, they would keep an eye on the bank. Complications ensue, of course. Harry falls for the bank manager Josephine, Wayne for schoolteacher Mrs Schaefer, and when Bob shows up, everything goes downhill.
This one milks gender confusion for cheap laughs. After all, Wayne and Harry are “gay”. But more often than not, the jokes come off as cruel, especially when Sheriff Dent falls for Harry. The script plods too, using the same old rude-little-kids and man-in-tutu’s routine for standard ha-ha’s. Not at all fun.
But what makes this movie worth at least a look is the cast. It’s great to see Ally Walker for one playing a major role instead of tagging behind as a sidekick. Ms Walker displays an unconventional beauty and screen presence that more often than not are snuffed out by her small roles. Jeremy Northam just ooze seductive classiness as Harry the conman who discovers that scruples are bloody uncomfortable when you want to cheat a woman you’re attracted to. Can this man be any more beautiful? His chemistry with Josephine, no matter how underbaked their relationship is, is simply explosive.
And the ever-reliable Steve Zahn is a perfect scene-stealer, as is Illeana Douglas who plays the woman kooky and zoned-out enough to be his perfect match. William H Macy infuses his role with a tragic nobility that is the sole source of dignity in this movie.
Happy, Texas, great acting aside, is bogged down by a script that tries too hard to be campy, only to end up nowhere.