Chris Ver Wiel's WHO IS CLETIS TOUT? is a whimsical little tale told in
flashback by Trevor Finch (Christian Slater), a conman freshly escaped from
prison, and embellished by Critical Jim (Tim Allen), a hit man who thinks that
he has been hired to kill him. Jim is supposed to kill Cletis Tout, but Finch
had the bad luck of choosing Cletis Tout, someone with a contract on him, as his
After Jim captures Tout, actually Finch, and before he executes him, Jim asks
him to tell his story. Jim, whose only two loves are money and movies, coaches
him like a director. Speaking almost exclusively in movie quotations, lingo and
plots, Jim helps Finch tells his life's story as if it were a pitch to a studio
The story within a story starts in the 1970s as a mime magician steals a fistful
of diamonds from a bank and then buries them in a field. The story skips to the
present as Finch helps Micah (Richard Dreyfuss), a.k.a. "The Magician," bust out
of prison. Tess (Portia de Rossi from "Ally McBeal"), Micah's daughter, joins
them to hunt for the loot. Needless to say, there are complications along the
way, not the least of which is that there are killers trying to murder Finch's
alter ego (Tout) and anyone with him.
"There is nothing like a great movie," Jim tells Finch. WHO IS CLETIS TOUT? is
certainly nothing like a great movie, but, with its modest ambitions, it does
succeed in being a mildly entertaining one.
WHO IS CLETIS TOUT? runs 1:35. It is rated R for "language, some violence and
sexuality" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it ***. He thought that its movie within a movie
structure was interesting.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes