Outside Providence Review
By Joe Lozito
It's possible that Alec Baldwin is tired of his wife being the only Oscar-winner in the family. What saves "Outside Providence" from being just another run-of-the-mill coming-of-age movie is a surprising bravura turn by Mr. Baldwin as the loutish, slovenly "Old Man" (he has no actual name). He creates a character at once intolerable and forgivable. He manages to expose the character's concern for his son, whom he affectionately calls "Dildo", without lapsing into a sentimentality that would have betrayed the film's would-be raunch.
In fact, the film is not up to the "Something about Mary" standards (to which it is destined to be compared) for the Farrelly brothers. This is because the film is not actually a pure Farrelly brothers creation (as it's being billed). The film was adapted by long-time collaborator Michael Corrente from an autobiographical novel by Peter Farrelly (in his Pre-"Mary" days). It follows early-70s slacker-in-training Timothy ("Dunph" as well as "Dildo") Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy, likeable but uneven) as he is carted off to a snooty Connecticut prep school to try to fit in while doing battle with the requisite stuffed-shirt Dean.
None of Mr. Hatosy's trials and tribulation at the elite Cornwall Academy (raise your hand if you can already see the nicknames for this one) are at all new, nor do they take much effort. His war with the Dean is strictly rehashed 80s "Revenge of the Nerds" tripe; he immediately falls in with a bunch of stoners, so he has an instant support group; and he even manages to becomes friends and fall in love with the most unattainable girl in school (Amy Smart). Ms. Smart's character is never made out to be as hard to get as she is initially described ("Forget it, man, you'll never even talk to her."). After a contrived meeting while hitchhiking (would her parents really put a hitchhiker like Dunph in the backseat with their only daughter? The 70s were never that good!) they are seemingly inseparable. She is your average straight-A, clean-cut student who doesn't mind also getting stoned and drinking with Dunphy. They seem to fall in love without much effort which leaves nothing left to root for.
The problem may be that this film isn't sure what it wants to be. The Farrelly pedigree requires the occasional gross-out jokes (they almost seem tacked on), but Mr. Corrente seems to want to make something more bittersweet. The film travels this middle ground unsteadily and, aside from Mr. Baldwin, unexceptionally.