by Collin Souter
Okay, so you got Joe Mantegna sucking on an oxygen mask for no apparent reason and he’s the Senator/Mayor/President of the town of Cukoo-fifi-pants. Or maybe not. Maybe he just lives in a big, white mansion with his daughter who, for whatever reason, only wears white pajamas and a small, black fur coat. His teenage son, Mark (Jonathan Tucker), is kind of a bad kid who hangs out with guys who have names like “The Dubes” or “The Sues,” or whatever the hell that license plate said. You got every girl in this town checking into a psych ward. You got Ed Begley Jr. showing up in a thankless role as a priest with an Irish accent (of course). And, I haven’t even gotten to Val Kilmer yet.Wait for it. “Stateside” is a numbingly silly movie whose tone is about as schizophrenic as its main character. It’s fine to mix tones. “Donnie Darko” did it beautifully, but “Stateside” starts out fun-loving with its opening title sequence, than tries to veer off into poetic, segues awkwardly into heavy-handed drama, makes a left turn toward a military movie, then finally…FINALLY…settles uneasily into a love story and than it tries to be poetic, heavy-handed and militant all over again. Within all of this, nobody, NOBODY explains who Joe Mantegna is or what he does or why he’s suckin in oxygen. I waited and waited and waited…nothing.
Let’s see, what else? Oh, the love story. Right. Well, Mark and his friends (wait, are they friends?) get into a car accident where they injure a blonde girl and the school’s very own Father Concoff (Begley), pronounced KONK-off, which I can’t say without laughing or squirming. A bad, bad boy, Mark gets sent off to the Marines. He comes back from it with a cru-cut, but still without a trace of character. He hooks up with the blonde girl he injured and her friend, Dori Lawrence (Rachel Leigh Cook), whom she met in the hospital. Dori speaks in non sequiturs and as time goes on she has Mark doing it, too.
So, Dori’s not all there, but of course Mark is too blindly in love to see it. She has schizophrenia, an issue the movie is not willing to deal with head-on. Oh, and did I happen to mention that Dori used to be in pictures? Yes, that’s right, she’s an actress. She used to be in movies, real movies, musicals and spy dramas. Her and Mark go to see one. Oh, and did I happen to mention that the movie takes place in 1980? So, tell me than (that is, after you tell me who Joe Mantegna is, why he’s sucking on oxygen and why…etc., etc., etc.), how can Mark and Dori be going to a theater playing “Evil Dead”? THAT MOVIE CAME OUT IN 1983!!!
Sigh!…man, okay. What else? Uuuhh….right, the movie’s last act consists of Mark and Dori coping with being apart, her in a psych ward, him on a tour of duty in North Carolina somewhere. He gets injured and spends the last part of the movie on crutches. She spends the last part of the movie cowering in the corner looking waifish and doey-eyed. Of course, we wait and wait and wait for the inevitable Hospital Escape scene, at which time Mark and Dori (in a wheelchair) take an elevator down where, of course, Father Concoff (giggle) sits in his wheelchair with just the right words of wisdom for the both of them. I can’t imagine actually writing this. Wow.
I tell ya’ I shoulda’ brought a notebook for this one. I can’t possibly remember every time I sat there and just said, “Wait, WHAT!?!” The movie doesn’t make a lick of sense. Like when Mark drives Dori to his parents’ house and back while he has a broken leg, only when he parks the car for the fourth time does she ask, “Are you okay to drive?” Yeah, okay, that’s hardly worth noting, but how about this? At the height of their love for one another, Mark declares to Dori, “I have a nickname for you.” I’m sorry, he doesn’t say it. He BEAMS it. He truly, madly, deeply means what he’s about to say. I, as an audience member, hid beneath my jacket. “No. No. Don’t say what you’re going to say. Please, don’t. No…”
“I have a nickname for you. Globah!”
That’s Globah, ladies and gentlemen. Glow…Buh… Globah. Never once is this explained. Never once is it ever brought up again. It’s just Globah. It gets mentioned once, than tossed aside like a, well, like an explanation, really. I’m sorry, did you need one? Did you also need an explanation as to why Dori magically finds a guitar in a bar she and Mark go to? Did you need an explanation as to why Rachel Leigh Cook lip- syncs the song even though she sang perfectly fine in “Jossee and the Pussy Cats”? Did you need an explanation as to why Penny Marshall, Carrie Fisher and Joe Mantegna decided to even show up for these cameos? Well, you don’t get an explanation. Globah.
Okay, I promised some insight on the inclusion of Val Kilmer, so here it is. Kilmer plays Mark’s drill sergeant. That’s right. Kilmer has to be intimidating. I believe what happened here is that Kilmer showed up on the set of this film, but spoke from the screenplay of another. I’m pretty sure he got confused. At one point, he stops everything and waxes rhapsodic about God-knows-what, at which point I’m sure writer-director Reverge Anselmo whispered to his cinematographer, “I don’t know what he’s doing, but don’t you dare stop filming!” Kilmer’s performance is so bad in this, you almost want to give him an Academy Award.Other than Kilmer’s 20-minute passage in this film, “Stateside” is an unkempt, disorganized monkey house of a movie. It features talented people for the most part and has its heart in the right place, but it feels slapped together from a batch of deleted scenes from other movies. You got Mantegna doing this, Kilmer doing that, Carrie Fisher wandering in and Penny Marshall making an appearance. You got schizophrenia, military training, a hokey Irish priest, bad poetry and a mis-managed timeline. Oh, and did I happen to mention it’s all “based on a true story”?
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9594&reviewer=233
originally posted: 05/22/04 15:17:58