Happy, Texas

Harry and Wayne are a pair of losers. Doing 3 to 5 for the Texas penal system, their luck changes when, while being transported, an armadillo in the road causes an accident and facilitates their escape. Eager to get to Mexico and freedom, the pair steals a RV, only to be stopped in the town of Happy by Sheriff Chappy Dent (William H. Macy). Unknown to the fleeing convicts, the stolen vehicle belongs to a gay couple from New York heading to the little town to head up the Little Miss Freshly Squeezed beauty pageant. What transpire are a major case of mistaken identity, a bank heist and a big change in the hearts and minds of the two cons in helmer/co-writer Mark Illsley's Happy, Texas.

Robin's Review: B-

Jeremy Northam plays Harry Sawyer, the brightest of the pair, whom falls for the town's banker, Josephine McClintock, while he plans to rob her establishment. Steve Zahn is Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. Wayne is none too keen on pretending to be a homosexual pageant coordinator, especially when Harry leaves him, alone, to teach a gaggle of little girls to become beauty contestants. The two are both an odd couple and fish-out-of-water. Jeremy Northam does a decent job with an American accent as Harry, but fails to capture a distinctive Texan drawl. His character is the most generic of all the principles in the film and least notable. Steve Zahn has steadily improved his comedic presence and acting ability since his earlier notice in That Thing You Do! As triple Wayne Jr., Zahn gives one of his best performances to date. He initially comes across as the dolt of this odd couple, making a lame attempt to be something he is not a trainer of little girls competing in beauty pageants. His little rags-to-riches metamorphosis into a caring choreographer is cliched, yes, but also amusingly handled by Zahn, especially as his dedication to his tiny wards grows. Ally Parker leads the supporting cast as the town banker and love interest to Harry. Parker, as Jo, is fresh faced and likable as she fleshes out her character to more than just the usual two-dimensions of the love interet. William H. Macy is outstanding as the sheriff of Happy. Chappy, a stalwart lawman, has a deep secret that the arrival of Harry and Wayne brings to the surface. He has suppressed his inner homosexual feelings for years, fearing it will make him less of a man. When he meets Harry (AKA Steven), he believes he has found a manly and kindred spirit. Chappy's coming out and his affection for Steven are done with warmth and humor. Paul Dooley mildly amuses as the town judge, volunteer fire chief and, possibly, dogcatcher. Ron Perlman makes a cameo type appearance as a Texas Ranger honcho called in to thwart the bank robbery. This last bit, with the Rangers shown as inept buffoons, is out of character with the rest of the flick. The production values are evenly handled all around. Director Illsley gives the right note to the comedy with an original story (co-written by Illsley, Phil Reeves and Ed Stone) and the solid performances of his cast. The look of the film complements the tale with its small-town feel and homey touches. The pageant stuff, typically overblown and unrealistic in most Hollywood films, is dead on in its amateur realism of a local kids' beauty contest. The little kids making up the town entrants into the Little Miss contest actually look like real little girls, not actors. Happy, Texsa is an amusing little comedy that showcases Steve Zahn, with William H. Macy's giving a sparkling perf as Sheriff Chappy.