Don't you just love a good stroke joke? I don't know about you, but I just can't get enough of the hilarity associated with tormenting someone who is confined to a wheelchair due to a debilitating stroke. That and prosthetic leg jokes are about all it takes to get me to the theater. If you're like me, you'll love Say It Isn't So.
The film stars Chris Klein, of American Pie fame as a down on his luck dog catcher who falls in love with a local hairdresser, played by Heather Graham. They date for a while and eventually go to bed. I only mention this because it turns out that she is his long-lost sister and their unnatural consummation is basically the foundation for all the joke in the rest of the movie. All the jokes, that is, aside from the myriad stroke jokes. Somewhere along the line, these people got the idea that any situation that involves an incapacitated person in a wheelchair in distress is automatically funny. Here's a little hint for the sequel: watching a man drool all over himself because he can't swallow is not funny. Listening to a man curse through a voice modulator is not funny. And, no matter how great it sounds on paper, watching a bunch of pigeons crap on a stroke victim's face is not funny. Maybe it would work better with trauma patients or people with cerebral palsy, but it just didn't work with the stroke victim. Later in the movie, we find out that Graham's not his sister after all, but it gets kind of complicated and hard to follow. What is set up to be one crazy misadventure after another, ala Meet the Parents, turns into little more than a series of flat, one-note jokes strung together with sickly sweet sentimentality.
Say It Isn't So is touted in ads as "the new comedy from the Farrelly brothers, the people who brought you There's Something About Mary." That is partly true. It is indeed produced by the Farrelly brothers, but not directed by them. As such, the film feels like a rip-off; a cheap imitation that comes close enough to feel familiar, but misses by enough to make the whole endeavor feel pointless and shoddy. Part of the problem is that the comic timing is way off. Jokes that have been meticulously set up miss the target completely, leaving the audience silent when they should be roaring. The editing is haphazard, rendering some sequences completely random and adrift.
The biggest problem with this movie is that it just has no kick. It really wants to be funny, offensive and disgusting, and sweet all at the same time. It wants to be Mary. Unfortunately, it's not particularly funny, and aside from the stroke jokes, not particularly offensive or disgusting. One scene in which Klein gets his fist stuck in the rear end of a cow, and then has to herd them in this position, was so stupid that I didn't even bother to be grossed out. Besides that, I've seen mechanical bulls that looked more lifelike than that cow. The movie was kind of sweet, but I didn't care anything about the characters, so the sentiment just felt cloying. Chris Klein is turning into a carbon copy of Keanu Reeves, the blankest actor in Hollywood, and Heather Graham plays a ditz so well that I'm beginning to wonder if she's acting. Sally Field comes along as Graham's mother, but what could have been edgy and fun was just sad. The only stand out is the very funny Orlando Jones, as a paraplegic pilot, but even his schtick wears thin after a while.
Heather Graham and Chris Klein in 20th Century Fox's Say It Isn't So - 2001
Say It Isn't So sounds like typical Farrelly Brothers fare, and the hope is that people who loved Dumb & Dumber, Me, Myself, and Irene, and There's Something About Mary, will flock to it. What they are going to find is that the formula strays just a little and ruins the whole effect. The director is different, and the comic timing is gone. More than that, though, is the tone. This movie is just plain mean-spirited. From the very beginning, you feel a dark undertone that doesn't fit, and that makes it almost impossible to connect with the story or the characters. The rest of the Farrelly movies all have controversial humor that does its best to offend everyone. The difference is that in those other movies, you were able to like the characters, and that makes it much easier to laugh things we might not ordinarily laugh at. I didn't like the people in this movie; they irritated me, their situations weren't funny, their love wasn't touching, and their lives weren't interesting. Say It Isn't So is a very appropriate title; I only wish I could say I didn't go. Grade: C-
Say It Isn't So is rated R for language, violence, adult situations and brief nudity.
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