Happy, Texas (1999), Cert 15.

Director - Mark Illsley.

Writer - Mark Illsley.

Starring - Steve Zhan, Jeremy Northam, William H. Macy, Ally Walker, Illeana Douglas & M.C. Gainey.


Premise - When two convicts are involved in a road accident they use the opportunity to escape. Soon after, through a series of coincidences Harry (Jeremy Northam) and Wayne Wayne Wayne (Steve Zhan) find themselves in the town of Happy, Texas. They are mistaken for a pair of gay beauty pageant organisers and decide to see out the deception as the local bank looks like an easy score.

After seeing the hilarious Evil Woman (Saving Silverman) I was pretty much sold on the comic talents of Steve Zhan. A few people recommended Happy, Texas and I thought I would give it a shot. It's unfortunate then, that Steve Zhan is easily the best thing in Happy, Texas by a country mile. There are other good things about the film, but for the most part it's a by the numbers, clichéd comedy.

Here Zhan plays a slightly dimwitted stoner with a real rage problem. Sure, it's not a million miles away from other parts that I have seen him play, but when he does it this well you really can't complain. His best moments come as he is left by his partner to teach a group of young girls how to dance and put on a show. Being an ex-convict he doesn't really have much of a clue and his efforts are the source of much amusement. Again Zhan's aptitude for physical comedy comes to the fore as he prances about like an idiot and also when he gets into a fight (which, thanks to his rage issues, is often).

William H. Macy plays the town sheriff and as we are all aware, he is a joy to behold in any film. He underplays the role and brings to it a charm and sweetness that I feel only he could have brought. You can see the joy in his eyes during his good times and when his heart is broken the audience feels as broken as he does.

Also good is Illeana Douglas as the teacher of the girls. I like her in pretty much anything; she has a nice quality to her comedy that I appreciate. She's the kind of actress that you know the face, but can never remember her name, but she has brought characters to life in some great films like ‘Ghost World’ and ‘Stir Of Echoes’. Kooky is perhaps a good word to describe the quality she brings to her characters.

Jeremy Northam was a real problem for me in the other lead role, he just didn't convince as either a convict or a romantic lead. I felt that he had a complete lack of charisma and any scene that he was part of (that didn't include Macy or Zhan) was a real drag. In-fact his whole plot arc involving him and the female bank manager was a snooze-a-thon from where I was sitting. Combine Northam's lack of charisma with the tired romantic aspect and it was a part of the film that I could have done well without.

As the film nears its predictable climax you only wish that more time had been spent on Zhan's story involving the preparations for the pageant. It’s funnier, more engaging and most critically, it's not riddled with clichés.

Writer/director Mark Illsley shows some promise with his writing, he had a good idea here, but the formulaic execution leaves a lot to be desired. Outside of Macy's character there are little or no surprises to be had; it's depressingly by the numbers stuff. I was actually reminded heavily of 'Miss Congeniality' when watching the film. Maybe it was the pageant theme or the fact that both are stunningly average comedies, but I got a strong feeling of deja vu when watching this movie.

Happy, Texas is an amiable enough comedy, the presence of Steve Zhan and another excellent piece of work from William H. Macy is enough to recommend it. Just don't expect anything other than a standard, formulaic comedy and you should enjoy it just fine.



See Happy, Texas if you enjoyed - Miss Congeniality, Evil Woman (Saving Silverman), Mystery Men.

Poster Quote - Not so Happy.