It might be time for Orlando Jones to rethink his career trajectory. At one point, it must have seemed that the apparently lucrative 7-Up campaign was his ticket to stardom, or at least household-namedom. But at this point, those increasingly inane ads seem only to be doing ill, in the form of a series of movie roles fashioned after what seem to be the least clever aspects of the 7-Up pitchman—again and again, Jones is caught out, rolling his eyes and acting the fool, in pointless or downright annoying plots.
In Say It Isn’t So, the talented Jones is once again up to these too-familiar shenanigans, only this time without legs. His cocky pilot character, Dig McCaffrey, is introduced about halfway through the film, when as he’s hit by a pickup truck. The driver is airheaded roadkill clean-up man Gilly (Chris Klein). Startled by the sight of the legless black man on the pavement, his prosthetics tossed every which-way, Gilly does the right thing, and gives the guy a ride into town. Their friendship isn’t exactly sealed yet, but Dig keeps popping up to save the day whenever hapless Gilly gets into trouble, when he’s arrested, locked in a nuthouse, and subjected to various abuses and bad jokes. The worst of these involves Gilly having his fist stuck up a cow’s rectum for the time it takes it to follow its herd from a mountain road back into town, where—surprise!—Gilly becomes a laughing stock.
Gilly is in need of a little help because he’s on a mission to find and retrieve his sweetheart, Jo (Heather Graham), who’s recently left him behind in small-town Indiana, and moved to Beaver, Oregon. There she’s waxing legs in a hair salon called “Beaver Cuts,” and affianced to a wealthy bully named Jack (Third Watch‘s Eddie Cibrian). Gilly’s relationship with Jo is sort of complicated, but more ridiculous than anything else. The backstory that the film spends some time laying out is this: when Gilly and Jo live originally in Indiana, they are passionate young lovers, complete with dittied romantic montages, until they discover that they are brother and sister. This is why the film is being touted as “the incest comedy.” Only it’s not really “the incest comedy” because they aren’t really brother and sister. Rather, they are victims of a mixup in paperwork and not a little dastardly intervention from villains who will remain unknown until the end of the film, but it hardly matters.
The ostensible point is that this rather grave mistake makes Gilly and Jo believe that they have been sinful, or more sinful than when they were just sleeping together without being married. They get some help in the guilt department from the townsfolk, who call him names like “sisterfucker,” and the trashy belle who is supposedly their mother, Valdine (Sally Field, doing her best to make you not like her, reminiscent of shrieky, bad-haired Bette Midler in the lamentable Drowning Mona). When Gilly discovers the error—that is, that he is not Jo’s brother and they can marry after all, he hightails it off to Beaver, which is where we came in above, as he’s hitting Dig with his pickup truck.
The most annoying aspects of Say It Isn’t So have to do with its uneven tone, part ironic, wise-cracking condescension and part clueless, mean-spirited condescension. While Gilly and Jo are sweet enough, they are also so irritatingly insipid that it’s difficult to like them, much less care whether they hook up in the end. While it’s plain that the film is modeled after Something About Mary, it never achieves that Holy Grail of Fart Humor’s outright raucousness or its bizarre affection for its characters. Like the Farrelly brothers’ movie, Say It Isn’t So is a series of jokes and bad things that happen to the anti-romantic-hero of a protagonist, but unlike Mary, this film has no sense of scale or modulation. Everything here runs at the same speed, but it’s all too slow—the audience is way ahead of the characters (its one major gross-out surprise comes at the beginning, during a hairstyling, but that’s all I’ll say). First-time director James B. Rogers (whose previous work included being first assistant director for the Farrellys’ Me, Myself & Irene and the Wietz brothers’ American Pie) has his work cut out for him. (Maybe he needs a brother?) Even aside from Dig’s unfunny sidekicking, the film’s one-note characterizations are instantly tiresome, and its slow pacing makes the onscreen events feel pretty much interminable. By the time those crazy kids have finally figured things out, you’re way past caring.