September 12, 2002

Cletis Who?

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While not a fantastic movie and clearly not about to win any awards, Who is Cletis Tout? will surprise viewers. A genuinely likable movie, Tout hits up the audience from all angles. Creatively written and directed by Chris Ver Wiel, Tout hits a quiet mark.

With a notorious cast (Christian Slater, Tim Allen, Portia de Rossi, and Richard Dreyfuss), this movie is quite unique. Tout is not a shoot-’em-up crime film or a gangster comedy, or even a concentrated drama. Beginning with an off-beat opening scene, the film’s opening credits let the viewers know that this is not your average movie and it does not want to be defined or labeled.

Told in a very interesting fashion, the film centers on Finch’s (Slater’s) character, a jailbird who escapes and assumes the identity of Cletis Tout. But apparently this Tout guy has been in some recent trouble and Finch does not really know what he is in for.

Tim Allen plays Critical Jim, an assassin with a classic film obsession. He is hired to hunt down the presupposed Tout (Finch in actuality). The movie is told mostly in flashbacks, half between Jim and half by Finch. Jim tries to put the “scenes” of Finch’s life together as he decides his “perfect ending.”

Full of homing pigeons, murders, diamond heists, and prisons, this film does not lose its viewers, unlike many current films. Instead, it brings the audience along through the unraveling of plans and ideas, step by step. Some work perfectly while others are destined to be botched. Tout follows the classic escaped-con formula: Finch runs while someone chases, and the movie rolls on with pride.

Allen is nicely cast as this old movie buff, finally dropping his over-the-top comedy act. But, he clearly will not be sticking to respectable acting for too long: The Santa Clause 2 is due out in November. Can we all say “YES!”?

Slater is simple and plays his part well. Often an underrated actor, Slater’s simplicity is actually one of his greatest acting strengths. Remember Heathers?

Dreyfuss co-stars as Slater’s escape partner and De Rossi (from television’s Ally McBeal) is Dreyfuss’s long last daughter Tess, and conveniently Slater’s love interest. De Rossi is quite an enigma on screen: sometimes breathtakingly gorgeous and often looking almost deformed. Her acting was not under par and up to the standards set by her male colleagues. Dreyfuss is nothing too strong but adds a noteworthy sense to the film’s repertoire.

With supporting work by Billy Connolly as Slater’s friend with connections and RuPaul as a nutty neighbor, this crazy (sort of) film is quite creative. Full of witty lines and a uniquely captivating story-line, Tout ends on a high note.

If you are looking for “the best movie of the year,” skip this one. With a light-hearted approach, Tout is a funny little film which leaves you satisfied at the finale. Combining uniqueness with a strong sense of humor, Ver Wiel’s script hits the audience hard.

Not a jump-up-and-down good movie, but an ambitious film that is successful in its own domain.

Archived article by Cory Sinclair