Happy, Texas


Directed by: Mark Illsley
Written by:Ed Stone, Mark Illsley
Starring: Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn, William H. Macy, Ally Walker, Illeana Douglas
Released: January 13, 2000
Grade: B-

Harry Sawyer (Northam) and Wayne Wayne Wayne Jnr (Zahn) are convicted criminals given the break of lifetime.  Whilst en route back to the jail after an outing of highway work, the prison van crashes setting themselves and a fellow inmate free.  Desperate to elude the police, they steal a camper van from a petrol station and set off to find somewhere to hide - that place is Happy, Texas.

In Happy, the town is getting ready for a big beauty pageant for young girls as they try to qualify for the final for the first time in eight years.  To help their causes, they’ve hired two guys who are experts in pageants - coincidentally the same two guys from whom they’ve stolen the camper van.

Suddenly, Harry and Wayne find themselves mistakenly identified as the two pageant guys and are roped into helping organise the pageant.  They need somewhere to hide out and what’s more - they’re getting paid $1,000 for the job.

Everything though is more complicated than first planned.  Firstly, neither of them knows anything about beauty pageants.  Secondly, the two guys are supposed to be a gay couple. Thirdly, they each develop crushes on a couple of local women (Walker and Douglas).  Throw in a creepy sheriff (Macy) who comes to a sudden realisation and you’ve got a pretty good recipe cooked up.

Watching this film had me wondering just what it was designed for.  It doesn’t have the laughs for a comedy, but it’s way too stupid for a drama.  It seems to be an attempted feel-good movie that is about twice as long as it ought to be and loses momentum as it progresses.

William H. Macy is in a class of his own and illustrates just how talented he is.  Since his Oscar nomination in Fargo, his career has taken off in leaps and bounds and his supporting role in this film overshadows the rest.  Jeremy Northam and Steve Zahn have their moments but neither is particularly notable.

You’ll see a lot worse movies this year, but all in all it adds up to one of those films that is going to lack public appeal because it’s quirky nature isn’t always on the mark.