Outside Providence (1999)


By Rhonda Baughman

Paula Cole once asked us, “Where have all the cowboys gone?” It’s time now for another performance artist, albeit a lesser known one, to ask another question: “Where have all the creative concepts for screenplays gone?” The latter may not roll off the tongue as well as the former, but it is still a burning question desperately seeking an answer. Outside Providence begins in a lackluster manner, situating itself in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in 1974. Tim Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy) just wants to party, but his overbearing, emotionally secretive father, (Alec Baldwin), is not quite hip to the idea of teenage insolence. The generation gap becomes more of a pit, when Tim manages to rear end a parked police car. A slap to the face is the result, as well as a trip to the Cornwall Prep School for Boys. Bummer.

Dunphy eventually becomes situtaed in his new home, manages to make a few friends, and even (gasp!) manages to finally get a real girlfriend. All the while, conniving to still get his crippled younger brother to a Jets game.

What I might also mention, is that intolerable scenes featuring the teens getting high and pontificating about nothing, as well as a completely unbelievable romantic interlude with Tim’s new girl (Amy Smart) stolen straight from Love Story, are only two of the many shortcomings in this pallid piece of pre-adult bull.

Worse yet, the death of a close pal aptly nicknamed Drugs (Jon Abrahams), results in the “awakening” of Tim and his other friends. The symbolic scene of burning their Allman Brothers album, rolling papers, and a copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as well as a lonely smoke in a dark cemetery sitting atop a grave, is weak, and not really all that funny, for a number of reasons. The whole formula of teen rebellion and the cliched, ‘you never know what you have until it’s gone,’ is tired, to say the least. Director Michael Corrette attempts to go down one too many paths, leaving me shifting in my seat, and bolting at the movie’s unrealistic ending. The only high points of the film were glimpsing the character of Wheeler, (Gabriel Mann), who is a shoo-in for a young James Spader and the three-legged furry pal with a patch Tim’s younger brother befriends. Interestingly enough, this movie is a creation of those bad boys of humor, the Farrelly Brothers. Too bad though, their new movie isn’t all that funny, and ‘outside’ any realm of significant comedic value.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/outside-providence/