Say It Isn’t So

Movie Information

Genre: Comedy
Director: J.B. Rogers
Starring: Heather Graham, Chris Klein, Orlando Jones, Sally Field
Rated: R

Hands-down this is far and away the best film I have ever seen in which the hero “disguises” himself with a fake beard crafted from a collection of pubic hair culled from a bikini-wax parlor. At least Say It Isn’t So currently occupies that position, but since this sort of thing seems to be the trend in comedy, it may well be eclipsed before the year is out. I’m not at all sure that anything more need be said about this offering from “the creators of There’s Something About Mary,” since this — along with at least 37 “gags” based on the bulk of the film taking place in Beaver, Ore. — is a pretty good barometer of the level of sophisticated humor on display in this film. George Bernard Shaw it ain’t. It should be noted that the “creators,” in this case, means that two of the six producers credited are the Farrelly brothers of Mary fame, but Say It Isn’t So is neither written nor directed by them. The directorial chores have been handed over to first timer J.B. Rogers (assistant director and co-producer of There’s Something About Mary), while the script is from the computer screens of Messrs. Peter Gaulke (a Saturday Night Live writer) and Gerry Swallow (a man with no previous artistic criminal record). In other words, this desperate attempt to cash in on the freak success of that film is so distantly related to its model that it would be legal for it to marry the original film in most states. Put bluntly, this “official” offspring of that clever — but overrated — film is no nearer the mark than the far too many pretenders that have already attempted to emulate its quirky humor. If you’ve seen the trailer, you already know the story: Dog-catcher Gilly Noble (Chris Klein, American Pie) falls in love with ditsy, inept hairdresser Jo Wingfield (Heather Graham, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) after she slices his ear off with a pair of scissors. Even after meeting her deranged family — mom (Sally Field) offers Gilly a “piece of my pie,” while stroke victim dad (Richard Jenkins) plays footsie with his inner thigh — the poor boob still wants to marry Jo. The problem is, it turns out that he’s supposedly the Wingfield’s second child — the one they gave up for adoption in favor of his older sister. We quickly learn that he isn’t Jo’s brother, but since mom has her heart set on her daughter marrying the fabulously wealthy and utterly amoral Jack (Eddie Cibrian), the news is kept from Jo, and Gilly is portrayed to the world as a sex offender. The bulk of the film then follows Gilly’s efforts to clear his name and prove to Jo that he isn’t her brother. Essentially, it’s just another situation-driven comedy that’s been festooned with increasingly desperate attempts at shock humor. The problem is that most of these “shocks” were done better by John Waters 25 years ago and are less shocking than merely tasteless. Worsening matters, Say It Isn’t So wants to have it both ways. It wants to be a free-wheeling cartoon of a film, but it wants you to care about the characters, resulting in an uneasy — and unbelievable — attempt to blend caricature and character. When Jo’s father (who spends most of the film speaking through an electronic device in a concept ripped off from South Park) suddenly develops a concern that his little girl might not be happy with her millionaire husband, it’s like we’ve suddenly wandered into another movie. Apart from a few cheap laughs, the film works only in one regard — Orlando Jones (Double Take) as Dig McCaffey, a double amputee airplane pilot who becomes Gilly’s ally. When Jones is on the screen, he manages to bring the film to life through his sheer likable energy and a sense of comic delivery and timing that has nothing to do with the film’s calculated attempts at outrageousness. In fact, Jones is so good that he makes the rest of the film look just that much worse — but he’s the only possible reason to see it.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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