Say It Isn't So!
Screenplay : Peter Gaulke & Gerry Swallow
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2001
Stars : Chris Klein (Gilly Noble), Heather Graham (Jo Wingfield), Orlando Jones (Dig McCaffey), Sally Field (Valdine Wingfield), Richard Jenkins (Walter Wingfield), John Rothman (Larry), Jack Plotnick (Leon), Eddie Cibrian (Jack Mitchelson)
Say It Isn't So! is the latest romantic comedy masquerading as a gross-out marathon, and even though it wasn't written or directed by the Farrelly Brothers, it was produced by them and directed by one of their long-time associates. Unfortunately, it is not nearly as good as the Farrelly Brothers' best work, or even their recent misfire Me, Myself, & Irene (2000). Say It Isn't So! generates a few laughs with its twisted narrative about a couple in love who find out they may be brother and sister, but most of the time it just feels like it's trying too hard to be both gross and endearing.
Chris Klein stars as Gilly Noble, an introverted dogcatcher in the small town of Shelbyville, Indiana. Gilly is an orphan, and he thinks he will never meet the right woman until Jo Wingfield (Heather Graham) moves back to town, where she turns heads (and butchers follicles) as a hairdresser. Gilly and Jo have a "meet cute" of sorts when she chops off the top of his ear during a haircut and insists on making up for it by having him to her family's house for dinner.
Jo's mother, a vodka-swilling floozy named Valdine (Sally Field), doesn't like Gilly because he's poor. She wants Jo to marry her ex-boyfriend, a millionaire in Beaver, Wyoming, named Jack (Eddie Cibrian). Jo's father, Walter (Richard Jenkins), has recently had a stroke, and he spends most of the movie confined to a wheelchair with a contorted face, cursing through his electronic voice machine because he can't speak (in true Farrelly fashion, there must be several jokes at the expense of the handicapped). When Gilly expresses surprise that Walter can say dirty words with a voice machine, you can almost imagine the filmmakers having a similar moment of dim-bulb inspiration: "Hey, saying 'dipsh--t' isn't really funny anymore, but what if a stroke victim said it through a voice machine..."
Gilly and Jo fall in love, and right after Gilly proposes marriage, a private investigator whom Gilly had hired to find his origin shows up with news that Valdine is his real mother. Thus, it appears that Gilly and Jo are brother and sister. So, Jo returns to Wyoming to be with Jack, and Gilly settles in for a miserable life with Valdine and Walter. That is, until Valdine's real missing son, Leon (Jack Plotnick), shows up at the door one day. Of course, as money-hungry as she is, Valdine still wants Jo to marry Jack, even if Jack is a criminal scumbag hiding beneath a veneer of respectability. So, the rest of the movie follows her attempts to maintain the ruse that Gilly and Jo are actually brother and sister so no one will let them get back together.
Give credit where credit is due: Screenwriters Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow have come up with a deviously twisted storyline on which to hang their jokes. Unfortunately, most of their jokes are forced, silly, or just not funny, whether that be Gilly getting his arm stuck elbow-deep in a cow's derriere, or characters using just about every known synonym for "incest" one can imagine. Director J.B. Rogers, who worked as an assistant director on all of the Farrelly Brothers' previous outings, as well as coproduced There's Something About Mary (1998) and Me, Myself, & Irene, keeps the pace moving and the jokes flying, but the material he's working with is simply subpar.
The major problem is the characters. Simply put, our hero and heroine are not particularly interesting people, and there's not much energy between Chris Klein and Heather Graham. Gilly is too clueless for his own good, and Jo is good-natured, but ultimately forgettable. Sally Field does a nice job as Valdine, although it's hard to get over the feeling that the cheapness of this role is somehow beneath her. The only star to really shine is Orlando Jones as Dig McCaffey, a legless pilot who looks like Jimi Hendrix and proves to be Gilly's savior on more than one occasion. Jones injects a much needed burst of fast-talking, wild-eyed energy into the story, but as a supporting character, he simply cannot bear the weight of the rest of the movie's tired, been-there-been-shocked-by-that feeling.
©2001 James Kendrick