Originally written for The Occidental.
We’ve all seen the previews: “From the creators of There’s Something About Mary… Outside Providence!” While Outside Providence is indeed written by the Farrelly brothers, made famous by There’s Something…, it is directed by Michael Corrente, and remarkably different from the Farrellys’ other work. Yes, there are still mean jokes and outrageous characters, but the jokes are spread more thinly and the characters taken far more seriously.
Outside Providence revolves around the trials and tribulations of Tim “Dildo” Dumphey (Shawn Hatosey) whose father finally loses patience with him when he and a bunch of friends rear-end a parked cop car… while smoking a startling amount of marijuana. Tim’s Dad, Old Man Dunphy (an almost unrecognizable Alec Baldwin), sends him to prep school, even though it’s his senior year. Of course, prep school turns out to be both better and worse than Tim expected, primarily because of Jane Weston, the brilliant, beautiful, and rich fellow-student Tim falls for. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Farrelly film without an unlucky canine, and Outside Providence is no exception. The Dunphy family’s dog is one-eyed, three-legged, and Old Man Dunphy doesn’t like her.
This is a film with many strengths, beginning with the cast. Hatosy and Baldwin are excellent, managing to make their characters interesting and sympathetic in spite of their at times overwhelming faults. Smart is able to be both the ‘perfect girl’ and human – a tribute both to her acting and Farrelly’s writing. The supporting cast is also excellent, from Tim’s wheelchair-bound younger brother (Tommy Bone) to Mr. Funderberk, the dreaded dormmaster.
What makes this film wonderful, and sets it apart from the good but very different other Farrelly films, is the way the characters interact. Old Man Dunphey and his poker pals manage to be at once blindingly insensitive jerks and remarkably kind men. The script captures their inability to express their feelings, and their acting lets the audience see what it is they’re trying to say (or trying not to say.). The romance between Tim and Jane is a classic princess-peasant one, but it’s also believable.
The bottom line is, this is a very good film. But it’s not another There’s Something About Mary (that film is in production as I write this, and should come out next year, okay?). Outside Providence is a movie of a different genre, and one well worth seeing, at that.