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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 8%
Average: 8%
Pretty Bad: 32%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 19 user ratings

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Outing Riley
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by Erik Childress

"Does Project Greenlight Take The Blame For This One, Too?"
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Project Greenlight’s first foray into reality show filmmaking gave us Pete Jones. He was painted with the stubborn brush, sometimes a cry-baby and fought fight after fight every week with the bosses around him. Creative editing notwithstanding, the end result (Stolen Summer) did not garner the type of reviews that would have absolved a young writer/director who may have been in over his head. Now, I enjoyed Stolen Summer. I found it to be a warm, unobtrusive piece of storytelling with fine actors working up a nice slant of what one of its executive producers deemed a potential after-school special. By description, his follow-up also falls into that category and is more than just a sophomore slump, it’s a call to be held back a grade.

I don’t know if casting himself in the lead role was the wisest decision after the response he received playing Pete Jones in the reality series, but he’s on hand immediately to narrate, pontificate and talk directly to us. Bobby Riley is a closeted homosexual from a large Chicago Irish-Catholic family. Four boys, one girl and now a deceased father. Maggie (Julie R. Pearl) knows Bobby’s secret and has for years, encouraging him to finally find the right opportunity to unleash it upon his brothers; one of whom is a priest.

Bobby’s boyfriend, Andy (Michael McDonald), like all gay partners in the movies also wants him to finally fess up his preference for weiner. That’s the kind of ill-timed joke that brother Connor (Stoney Westmoreland) excels in over-and-over…and over. It’s not funny when he says it either. Neither are the obvious gay jokes which smell of fop sweat from the middle ages. Quips about musical theatre and watching The 700 Club for the hair just lie there and yet called attention to by devices Jones uses to punctuate instead of just letting it be. If lines like “I know I liked the combo of soft lips and bearded cheek the first time I kissed my aunt,” make you laugh, then maybe Outing Riley is for you.

It starts early on as Bobby tells us his predicament and imagines his life as a movie. This pulls in images of naked chicks, helicopters and during a completely out-of-place closing credits sequence – NINJAS! Out-of-place because it belongs nowhere in the movie. Jones also adopts the annoying habit of freezing the frame with every character introduction or just when he feels he has something important to say and doesn’t want the audience to be distracted by those crazy background pictures we like to call a movie.

Outing Riley does slowly overcome its frequent stumbling blocks and settles in thanks in part to nice work from McDonald and particularly Nathan Fillion as Bobby’s closest brother, Luke. Fillion actually played the first, mistaken Private Ryan in Spielberg’s epic and here really shines as the Riley clown who gets hurt deeply that his brother couldn’t at least confide in him. He has a bright future in the business.

One aspect of the film’s screenplay that was appreciated, if with a little less meat than it needed is the concept of “coming out” as a selfish act. Sure it can’t be any fun hiding who you are, but at the same time it’s not an issue that’s supposed to be forced. Who wouldn’t understand Bobby not wanting to tell deathbed dad just to clear his own conscience? It’s part of why sister Maggie is correctly identified (albeit affectionately) as a secret-unleashing “bitch” throughout the film. Part of her means well, but she should think of taking a cue from her big speech when she obviously states that “what people do behind closed doors is their business.”

Chicago natives Jeff Garlin and radio show host, Steve Dahl, are on hand with cameos and we’re always hoping for a local boy to make good, but Outing Riley is false hope. Most of the humor is too obvious to shock and just out-of-date enough to toss out. You could fashion a drinking game out of the priest/altar boy jokes. The gay riffs don’t have the outrage behind them to make them truly biting resulting in material that would make “Just Jack” gag. And that’s no easy feat, but simple enough when you include a truly lame Esther Williams style fantasy sequence that couldn’t be more out of place, except for the ninjas. Jones showed promise as a writer with Stolen Summer, but as a director out on his own he’s got all the nuance of jumping around on camera screaming “Hey ma look, I’m making a movie.” (He even grabs the boom mike at one point and turns the tables.) Maybe he needs someone like producer Chris Moore to kick him in the ass and rein him in from time-to-time. Because if Outing Riley was the first script chosen on Project Greenlight, not only wouldn’t there be an opportunity for Jones’ sophomore slump, there likely wouldn’t have been ANY second Project.

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originally posted: 10/15/04 02:09:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/21/10 Cliff Totally agree with the reviewer. The freeze frames take you out of the movie. 2 stars
8/04/09 Greg I enjoyed this very much. Makes me want to make sure those in my life know I love them. 4 stars
2/19/09 Karl Laurence Slick and professional, funny but a little too safely mainstream. 3 stars
1/27/09 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
12/13/08 Annie G Made me very jealous of these siblings, who come through in the end (unlike real ones). 3 stars
3/10/08 David Cannot agree with others. The reviewer was right. This film missed the mark all over. 2 stars
12/16/07 Keith This is the worst review ever! Try more bran! 5 stars
10/22/07 Paddy Joseph The reviewer is a homophobe... I think this film is genius. I can't recommend this gem more 5 stars
6/16/07 Merrie I watched this on LOGO and I thought it was good. The humor was relatable and Nathan Filli 4 stars
6/13/07 Reggie Just saw it on LOGO. I think this film would have been great with a bigger budget. 5 stars
8/06/05 Craig Harrison this movie is great, better if you know Chicago..... 5 stars
1/21/05 jerry schuetz awesome 5 stars
11/10/04 Craig Harrison Me and my girlfriend both enjoyed this moive a lot and hope that pete makes it! 5 stars
10/18/04 jen hysterical, honest, a different type of gay character that is not stereotypical 5 stars
10/17/04 Richard Very funny 5 stars
10/15/04 nancy hilarious, real, emotional, overcomes the foul language 5 stars
10/13/04 paul hilarious 5 stars
10/12/04 Randall Po a great flick 5 stars
10/12/04 rbswang This movie had a nice mixture of laughs (witty and a few cheap) and emotion laden scenes. 5 stars
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