I was lucky/unlucky enough to see Tim Allen a few weeks ago when he came into town to promote his new film, Crazy on the Outside, at Ronnies 20 down in South County. I say lucky because at one time Allen was one of the most popular actors/comedians in the US. He had a number one TV Show, a number one movie, and a number one selling book all at once. Oh, how far have you fallen Tim Allen…
The directorial debut from Tim Allen tells the tale of Tommy (played by Tim Allen), a man who has just been released from prison after taking the fall in a business of pirating movies. He moves to the home of his overprotective and pathological liar of a sister, Vicky (Sigourney Weaver). He vows that his life is going to change, and has a goal of starting up his father’s old painting business. The problem is that his parole officer, Angela (Jeanne Tripplehorn) wants to keep him on the straight and narrow by making him work at a fast food joint where he has to dress as a pirate.
To make matters worse for Tommy, his old business partner wants him to join back in on the old business, and promises him the allure of money and power once again. His girlfriend, Christy (Julie Bowen) who he was told was dead by his sister, is back in his life even though she is engaged to local electronics retailer Frank (Kelsey Grammer). He must avoid the allure of his old life, while finding promise in a new one with Vicky and her son.
The most impressive thing about Crazy on the Outside is how bad it is with the talented cast it has. Pretty much everyone in this film has proved their comedic worth in other comedies through the years, but in this they flounder with a script filled with lame puns and even lamer sight gags. There were so many times that the film paused for the audience to laugh only to be subjected to groans.
The main problem with the film is the writing and the pacing. I guess I can’t really expect much from writers who have given us horrible sitcoms like According to Jim and Coach. The film seems to forget it is no longer on a multi camera half an hour format. It is distressing to think that this film could have been put on TV with laugh track and all. I’m not sure it would have fared much better.
The pacing can only partly be blamed on the script. Tim Allen may be a gifted comedian, but his direction lacks something. Performances from him and the rest of the cast seem hokey, and lack the correct comedic timing to garner a laugh from the whole audience. There are rare moments when you know a joke should be funny, but it just comes off as lame. That can’t be chalked up to writing, but to delivery, and to the incompetence of the director.
Sigourney Weaver should be glad that she has a major part in mega-blockbuster Avatar to overshadow her performance in this one. Did she take this role out of pity for friend Tim Allen or was her career declining just as sharply as his until late?
There isn’t really a single bright spot in the cast. Julie Bowen is reduced to an insincere cheater. Ray Liotta is underutilized as the antagonist, which is a role he has played so well many other times. J.K. Simmons gets a few of the biggest laughs, and probably gives a better performance than anyone else in the film. Kelsey Grammer is given almost no material, and makes me wonder why he was even brought on, another actor who has seen his career fade after sitcom heaven? Jeanne Tripplehorn is ok as the tough female parole officer who quickly turns into Tommy’s love interest. Unfortunately there is almost no chemistry between Allen and her.
Tim Allen is a funny man, and I never will doubt that, but his first film as a director does not inspire confidence for the future. Luckily, he will get a pick me up this summer when Toy Story 3 hits theaters. I’d suggest holding your money on this one, and spend it on one of the much better winter releases out right now.
(Note: Tim Allen performed stand up before the film, and introduced it himself. The stand up was hit or miss. It was obvious that he was trying out new material for his upcoming stand up tour. If you want to see the man in action it’d be better to see him this way. Hopefully, he will stop through St. Louis along the way.)