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'Say It Isn't So!': We Wish We Could

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 23, 2001


    'Say It Isn't So' Heather Graham and Chris Klein star in "Say It Isn't So." (20th Century Fox)
See, I think it's just really funny when a guy with a paralyzed larynx tries to talk and -- gack! spit! gluph! -- can't. So do the Farrelly brothers, of "Dumb and Dumber" fame. Those high acolytes to degeneration have produced a clone flick -- someone else wrote and directed, but the DNA is genuine Farrelly -- called "Say It Isn't So!," which is mostly about the comic possibilities of infirmity.

In this one, directed by James B. Rogers and written by Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow -- or rather, excuse me, to conform to Screen Writers Guild code for disputed credits, "&" Gerry Swallow -- boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy learns girl is sister.

What a jolly comedy theme: incest. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'd be the last one to criticize the North American Brother-Sister Love Association.

Basically, the film plays off the beauty of stars Chris Klein and Heather Graham, who have the clear, angelic countenances of space-babies. They seem to have descended from bubbles out of "2001." Their dim, pure faces never change expression as, about them, crassness, crudity, cruelty and a spirit of general mayhem swirl like the merry winds of March.

Klein, playing a foundling named Gilly Noble, is an animal control worker in a small Indiana town, which yields ever so many amusing moments of animal torture humor. At one point he even gets his fist stuck somewhere in Mama Cow where the sun don't shine. That's a real high point. A clever bit of business like that can just make your sides hurt from laughing so hard.

He meets Jo, a hairdresser whose dos don't, won't and can't. This is Graham, an infantilized child-woman dressed in somebody's idea of "zany" clothes. Something clicks and for a few magic months they are inseparable, even though her trashy mom (Sally Field, slumming with a vengeance, in pants no woman her age should be welded into) tries to break them up. Watching helplessly and playing the movie's bayonet dummy is the daddy of this tornado bait clan, Walter (played by Richard Jenkins). Here's the funny part. He's a paraplegic, and he talks poorly through an electronic voice box. Gosh, I love it when they do that, and whenever the jokes flag, Walter can be dumped on the ground and his squirming and grokking enjoyed for maximum comic benefit.

Soon, however, Gilly learns Jo is his actual sister, making the horrid Valdine (Field) his mother. Listen, I would kill myself if I found out Sally Field was my mother, but Gilly just gets morose as Jo moves away and gets engaged to an unworthy fellow.

Her wedding day approaches, and Gilly learns -- bet you didn't see this twist coming! -- that bloodlines aren't really what they seem to be. Liberated from man's oldest taboo, he sets out to win Jo back, assisted by a fellow called Dig (Orlando Jones) who, quite humorously, has no legs. Oh my, that's a jaunty source of laughs, too.

And, folks, I haven't even gotten to the comic rednecks yet, the numerous comedy beatings and smashings, and the arrival of a debilitating stroke as the final punch line. Do these boys leave you laughing, or what?

The Farrellys: Their proud claim to movie greatness is that they afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable.

Say It Isn't So! (97 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for gross humor and sexual innuendo.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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