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HAPPY, TEXAS

SYNOPSIS:
Escaped jail birds - small time crims - Harry Sawyer (Jeremy Northam) and Wayne Wayne Wayne Jnr (Steve Zahn) are on the run; they steal a trailer that changes their lives. It belongs to the Ziegfried & Roy of pageants - David and Steven (Tim Bagley & Michel Hitchcock), who are expected in the town of Happy, Texas to coach the littlies of the Little Miss Fresh Squeezed beauty pageant. Josephine McLintock (Ally Walker) runs the local bank and Ms Schaefer (Illeana Douglas) is in charge of the little girls for the pageant. Neither women saw these guys coming, nor did happy, Texas. Sheriff Chappy least of all.

"Paris, Texas it ain't, but rest assured it's a film that lives up to its title. That zany Steve Zahn and straightman Jeremy Northam make a very happily contradictory couple and work the script's business to within an inch of its life. There is Zahn's impenetrable speech mannerisms in full employment as a combination sight and gag gag, while Northam's piggy little eyes glint subtly as he winces when the sheriff makes advances. . . it's all done with a bit of advance signalling, but we are sucked right in all the same. Playing more like a long situation comedy from a gung ho tv station in middle America, Happy, Texas is not cinema veritee or even very twee, but it has comedy down to a tee. William H. Macy, as the Sheriff Chappy (puhlease!) in question, detonates in exquisite slow motion during the second half of the film. Although at times it feels a bit forced (and the plot line could do with a quick colonic irrigation) the sheer juxtaposing of these characters into this landscape saves the film absolutely. And joy, oh joy, it laughs at its own fakery and its own silly conceit. It's a drag race from droll to moll as the amours get sorted, and is recommended as a dose of smelling salts after a dull day. Be gay, be happy, be swept away - or at least nudged."
Andrew L. Urban

"Steve Zahn has one of those goofy faces that just makes me fall apart; his outstanding comedic turn in Happy, Texas - an absurd, wacky frolic - is an absolute treat. Together with heartthrob Jeremy Northam, he is the tonic you need to have a jolly good laugh. Zahn's car-thief Wayne Wayne Wayne Jnr (now there's a name to move those facial muscles!) is a man with few skills of articulation and a greasy hair problem. Northam's credit-card conman easily seduces, with Northam showing his versatility by falling very comfortably into this straight man role after his successes in period pieces such as An Ideal Husband and The Winslow Boy. Mark Illsley's clever, witty caper is full of surprises; we think it's going in one direction, but it swerves and hits sharp corners without warning. He entices us into a laid-back world of country hicks, where the local colour is vivid, the pace well under the speed limit. But we laugh with the characters, never at them; we genuinely care for them and delight in their misadventures. From issues of sexuality, training little girls for pageant success and illegal banking business, you get more than you've bargained for - every time. From the opening lunacy to the middle-of-the-road romantic comedy development, Happy, Texas is one of those films that will have you grinning ear to ear throughout. Nothing goes to plan, everyone is confused especially sexually and William H. Macy does a great turn as the Sheriff in the closet. The set up is irresistible, the execution delicious. It's good-humoured and very, very funny. What more can I say to recommend it? Cry a little, laugh a lot, Happy, Texas is just the ticket."
Louise Keller

"Happy, Texas is great entertainment. First time writer director Mark Illsley has scored what should be a big hit with this absorbing mix of pathos, action, and side-splitting comedy. Steve Zahn steals most of the laughs in what is easily the comic performance of the year. His Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. is inspired madness. Illsley's placement of the no brains but heart of gold convict on the run in the role of infant beauty pageant choreographer is sound fish-out-of-water comic plotting. Zahn delivers an earnest, believable character which carries this plotline into comedy heaven. Similarly, the work of the consistently good William H. Macy as Sheriff Chappy Dent, gives the story its pathos. As always, the pacing of his performance is beautifully judged and without him, the film may not have the depth it needs. While these are the outstanding turns, there is not a flawed performance to be found from the rest of the ensemble cast. Englishman Jeremy Northam out Baldwins the Baldwin brothers in the key dramatic role, while Ally Walker and Illeana Douglas provide solid dramatic and comedic counterpoint to Northam and Zahn. Escaped convicts posing as gay kiddy pageant coaches is a nice premise. The oft quoted Seinfeld line regarding homosexuality "not that there's anything wrong with that" seems to have provided the launching pad for many a Hollywood treatment: some acceptable, some not. It is a fine line to tread between homophobic comedy and social comedy. Illsley, Northam, Zahn, and Macy negotiate the pitfalls successfully by playing real and staying right away from mincing caricature. Nicely done."
Lee Gough

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

>TRAILER

See Shannon J. Harvey's interview with director
MARK ILLSLEY

HAPPY TEXAS (M)
(US)

CAST: Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn, William H. Macy, Ally Walker, Illeana Douglas, M.C. Gainey, Ron Perlman, Tim Bagley, Michael Hitchcock, Paul Dooley

PRODUCERS: Mark Illsley, Rick Montgomery, Ed Stone

DIRECTOR: Mark Illsley

SCRIPT: Mark Illsley, Phil Reeves

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bruce Douglas Johnson

EDITOR: Norman Buckley

MUSIC: Peter Harris

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Maurin L. Scarlata

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 13, 2000

AWARDS
Sundance Film Festival
Winner: Special Jury Award (dramatic) Steve Zahn
Nominated: Grand Jury Prize (dramatic) Mark Illsley

VIDEO RELEASE: June 20, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment







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