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Outside Providence is the newest jump into teen nostalgia by ultra-hot screenwriting team Peter and Bobby Farrelly. It is their story of growing up in Rhode Island. If the Farrellys (Something About Mary, Kingpin) were like any of the characters in their movie, it’s a miracle they ever got past Pawtucket, let alone all the way out to Hollywood.
From the opening credits, as we listen to Pete Townshend’s "Won’t Get Fooled Again," we know we’re in for a taste of 70’s romantic sentiment, Rhode Island style. That means pills and a bong. Poor Dildo Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy) is a blue-collar kid and a stoner. He and his friends sit around on their rooftops drinking beer and ingesting every drug they can get their hands on.
Dildo and his buddies smuggle some weed past his Dad (Alec Baldwin) and his poker-playing bigot buddies (including George Wendt as Joey and Mike Cerrone as Caveech). Then, stoned out of their minds, they crash into a police car. Old man Dunphy decides he has to get his son away from Pawtucket, so he pulls some strings and gets Dildo into an exclusive prep school. ("What’s a prep school? It’s where they prepare you for me not breaking your neck"). Voila! Little Dildo Dunphy is now Timothy Dunphy, a senior at upper-crusty Cornwall school, where all the mandatory horrors from every prep school movie ever made are visited upon him in predictable order.
At first Outside Providence seems to be attempting to make a statement about social stratification – after all Timothy is now the poorest and dumbest kid in an upwardly mobile rich kids’ school. We think Director Michael Corrente (Federal Hill, American Buffalo) has his eyes on a worthwhile prize – that is a High School movie in which the film maker does more than take apart the people who tormented him before he got behind the camera. But Corrente can’t avoid the beautiful girl, and this relationship hurries the rest of the film right back to Hollywood. Timothy/Dildo meets the most beautiful girl on campus, Jane Weston (Amy Smart), and their infatuation grows into a Hallmark card of country images – they toss pebbles into creeks, she strokes his hair as he lights another cigarette, the moon rises over their love as they stare at that gorgeous country lake.
Meanwhile, the Dean (George Mort) hates Timothy’s guts, the proctor (Tim Crowe) hates Timothy’s spunk, and his tiny roommate Jizz (Jack Ferver) idolizes Timothy because Timothy calls him by his real name, Irving. The administration is a gaggle of Nazis and the student body sucks eggs. So what happened to the unique vision?
Alec Baldwin is the least convincing blue-collar-poker-playing-whisky-swilling yahoo to hit the screen in many a year. His aphorisms to his son wreak of political correctness from a later generation: "Sex is like a Chinese dinner. It ain’t over ’til you both get your cookies." The closest to a declaration of love in this family is when they yell at Dildo’s little brother: "Shut up, you little hardon!"
A far better examination of this social class issue was Breaking Away (1979), where the son’s attempts to move forward in life clashed with his father’s stone-cutting world. But at least the father
was on his son’s side in that picture. In Outside Providence growing up is not the issue. Quite the contrary, it is the glorification of the sodden and miserable present. The dad’s poker playing friends make jokes about fags and Jews until one of them, Joey (George Wendt), admits he is at least one of the above. He is summarily kicked out of the game, but by film’s end he’s back, making fag jokes about himself.
The poker game goes on. Nothing really changes. We had hoped to be dealt a much better hand.