Say It Isn't So
review by Gregory Avery, 23 March 2001

Say It Isn't So, the latest entry in the new American film School of Rotten Comedy, casts Chris Klein as Gilly, a guy who finally finds love in the form of Jo, played by Heather Graham, only to encounter an inordinate obstacle to their romance in the form of the possibility that they just might be -- gasp! -- brother and sister. Anybody expecting this to turn out be a sweet, sensitive comedy-drama on the subject, though, had better go elsewhere.

Trying to hit the so-gross-it's-cool target as many times as possible, the filmmakers fill every inch of the movie with bile, turning it into an increasingly rancorous and putrefying carnival sideshow. Kline's Gilly is an Illinois animal control officer who lures household pets into traps so they can keep the solitary animals at the shelter company. Graham's Jo turns out to be a hair stylist who can't cut hair. Her and Gilly's "meet-cute" occurs when she accidentally cuts part of his ear off with her scissors.

Jo's mother is a white-trash harridan (played by Sally Field, of all people), her father (Richard Jenkins) a paralytic stroke victim who issues curses through an electronic voice box. The "pièces de résistance" include his being hauled around like a piece of lumber and dropped, several times; Gilly disguising himself with body hair that was actually removed during bikini-waxings; another of the characters turning into a paralytic stroke victim; and Jo climbing up onto the roof of a building and holding a gun to her head.

In between, there's a parade of greasy, toothless, pockmarked, and otherwise malformed faces, insults, and humiliating situations, each one trying to top whatever had just gone before. After a while, you find yourself cringing, like a Dickensian schoolboy being caned, in anticipation of what's going to come next.  Jo, distraught, flees Illinois for the town of Beaver, Oregon, which is festooned with signs for the "Beaver Police", a salon called "Beaver Cuts", etc. Gilly drives all night to be with her, but hits a man on the road who has one, no, make that two prosthetic legs. Naturally, they become good friends (the guy is played by comedian Orlando Jones, who manages, in some scenes, to actually rise above the circumstance).

In order to keep the story going, the film has to turn everybody into either an imbecile, a cretin, or both, which becomes tiring; and both the film and its characters constantly dump on Gilly and Jo. Chris Klein and Heather Graham happen to be two of the most naturally charismatic performers working in films today, and to have to watch them making their way through the increasingly cruddy material is hard enough. That the filmmakers take the further step of using their appeal to make them look risible is inexcusable. The two actors become objects of scorn because they're not as repulsive as everyone else around them. The apex occurs when Klein's character, who has already suffered about forty million insults ("Sweet Jesus, you ponied your sister!") and indignities for committing incest (which, it turns out, he didn't do, and this is made clear very early on), becomes pinned like a butterfly on mounting paper when he gets his hand stuck in a cow: he stands, speechless and helpless, in public while people on both sides of a city street simply stand and jeer at him, over and over. Aside from the fact that it's not funny, I happen to know for a fact that no self-respecting citizen of an Oregon town would ever allow something as cruel as that to happen without intervening. But that's what happens when these consarned filmmakers from out-of-state barge into town.

Oddly enough, I found myself ineluctably remembering Joseph N. Welch's remark to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1954 Army/McCarthy hearings, the remark that would break McCarthy's career, "Have you no sense of decency, sir...?" The film Say It Isn't So has no dignity, no decency, no shame, no sense of morality one way or the other, and no sense of humor. It isn't nothing; it's worse than nothing.

Directed by:
J.B. Rogers

Chris Klein
Heather Graham,
Orlando Jones
Lin Shaye
Richard Jenkins
Sally Field

Written by:
Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow

R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult





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