Follow the bouncing ball and sing-along, "Macho, macho man, I want
to be a macho man." Now, as this is essentially IN AND OUT's theme
song, keep it going in your subconscious as you read the rest of this
review, and it will put you in just the right mood to hear about one of
the funniest comedies of the year.
Remember when Tom Hanks received the Academy Award for
PHILADELPHIA and thanked his gay high school teacher? Well, when
producer Scott Rudin heard this, he had an immediate idea for comedy.
What if the teacher either wasn't gay or wasn't known to be gay?
The resulting movie, IN AND OUT, by writer Paul Rudnick from
JEFFREY and director Frank Oz from THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD and DIRTY
ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, literally bursts with comedic energy. The audience
at my advanced screening laughed so hard and so often that it would
take another viewing to hear all of the delicious jokes properly.
Set in the Normal Rockwell hamlet of Greenleaf, Indiana, the story
opens on a prissy high school drama teacher named Howard Brackett, who,
after a long, three-year engagement, is finally going to tie the knot
in just one week. Kevin Kline, reportedly chosen after Steve Martin
passed on the part, plays Howard. In short, he is terrific especially
in the film's dance routine. (For the record, I think Steve Martin
would have been even better but Kline gives a performance worthy of
Tonight is the Oscars presentation and the entire town gathers
around their television sets to see if Howard's ex-student Cameron
Drake, played as a blonde Hollywood airhead by Matt Dillon, will win
the award for best actor.
The real Academy Awards show should be this funny. After film
clips of Cameron in an awful war picture, Glenn Close names the best
actor nominees including Steven Seagal for A SNOWBALL IN HELL, an
obvious reference to his chance of ever getting the real award. When
Cameron wins, he thanks everyone, finishing with, "To Howard Brackett
from Greenleaf, Indiana [Pause] and he's gay."
The entire town freezes for a moment. When they recover, Howard
tells his fiancee Emily Montgomery, played by Joan Cusack, that he has
no idea what Cameron is talking about. Two nanoseconds later, his mom
(Debbie Reynolds) and dad (Wilford Brimley) appear on his doorstep. "I
may sue," Howard off-handedly suggests to them. "Get Johnny Cochrane,
not that woman," advises his dad. Aren't parents helpful?
The next morning a phalanx of television reporters descends on the
high school. Most leave the following morning, but gay reporter Peter
Malloy, played with intense pseudo-seriousness by Tom Selleck, stays
for the week. He does man-on-the-street interviews, asking the
question that all America wants to know -- Will Howard actually get
married at the end of the week? In one report, Peter summarizes the
troubles with poetic drama. "A teacher in trouble," he intones. "A
town under siege. A journey to the Heartland. Stay tuned."
Easily the funniest part of the show is the training Howard puts
himself through to demonstrate his masculinity. He hopes to convince
the town that he truly isn't gay. He plays a self-help tape where he
is supposed to repeat the tough guy lines. He repeats the first two
fine -- "Yo" and "Hot damn." When he repeats the third, "What a
fabulous window treatment," the tape stops him in mid-sentence saying,
"That was a trick."
The tape then instructs him that real men don't dance. ("Be a
man. Think of John Wayne, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold doesn't
dance. He can barely walk.") Howard goes wild at this point in an
uncontrollable and well choreographed dance routine to "Macho man."
You will never be able to hear this song again without dancing around
The script itself is the real star of the show. It manages to
elicit huge laughs without resorting to slapstick, and it finds humor
in unlikely spots. One group of elderly women decide to bare their
secrets. One confesses to having pilfered a special Rice Krispy Treat
recipe from a dead woman's recipe file, and another fesses up to having
hated THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY.
Everyone in the movie is in top form. Bob Newhart, as the dour
principal, gets away with lines that would sound ridiculous coming from
anyone else. Joan Cusack takes a simple prop -- a fluffy white wedding
dress -- and does more funny things with it than would seem possible.
When she enters a tiny car with automatic shoulder straps, for example,
she is engulfed in a sea of lace.
Even minor characters such Cameron's trophy girlfriend,
swizzle-stick-looking supermodel Sonja, played with suitable coldness
by Shalom Harlow, get great lines. When Cameron has the audacity to
suggest they go to Greenleaf to help Howard, she tells him she is busy
right now. She has a show to do she says and, "I have to shower and
About halfway through the film, the writer briefly looks as though
he has painted himself into a comedic corner, but he extricates the
story quickly and picks right back up with the humor. The show ends
with a suitably uproarious sequence.
IN AND OUT is such a splendid and infectiously happy comedy that
when you walk through the parking lot after the movie, you will
undoubtedly still be able to hear the audience's laughter and the
show's energetic music reverberating in your head.
IN AND OUT flies by at just 1:30. It is rated PG-13 for mature
themes and a little profanity. The show would be fine kids around ten
and up. I recommend the picture to you highly and give it *** 1/2.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes