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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 09/02/1999,

Outside Providence

Pitched as the latest film by those wild and crazy Farrelly brothers (There's Something About Mary), Outside Providence is actually based on a Peter Farrelly novel that preceded the filmmakers' reign as kings of gross-out comedy. It's a sweet, if minor, coming-of-age story in which Tim Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy) gets one big chance to escape gritty Pawtucket when he spends senior year at a snooty boarding school. Leaving behind a crippled kid brother, his perennially stoned friends, and his gruff-but-tender dad (Alec Baldwin, doing a fine Ralph Kramden), Dunph maintains his integrity, never truly trading in the blue collar for a blue blazer.

The Farrellys, sharing script credit with director Michael Corrente, skirt many of the expected clichés, but the story they deliver is as thin as rolling paper. Fussy teachers and preppy antagonists are introduced, then dropped. The requisite rich girlfriend (Amy Smart) never amounts to much. Still, Hatosy shines: he's swan-necked, snaggle-toothed, and enormously likable, and his exchanges with the testy Baldwin are wonderful. So is a gay-baiting scene among Baldwin's poker buddies that takes a rich and surprising turn. But Corrente, helming his third unexceptional feature, marks way too much time with pointless montages set to a wall-to-wall soundtrack of 1970s crotch rock. Although it shares certain plot points with Rushmore, Outside Providence is a good deal less.

-- Scott Heller