Happy Texas

Happy Texas (1999)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Steve Zahn, Jeremy Northam, William H. Macy
Extras: Audio Commentary, Trailer, Deleted Scenes, Crew Interview, Featurette, Music Videos

The comedy ’Happy, Texas’ first gained notoriety at the Sundance Film Festival, where its screenings all sold out. It then made the news again when it was learned that Miramax passed on buying ’The Blair Witch Project’ (I wonder why?) and purchased ’Happy, Texas’ instead, which went on to be a box-office flop. They should have saved their money.

’Happy, Texas’ tells the story of two escaped convicts, Harry Sawyer (Jeremy Northam) and Wayne Wayne Wayne, Jr. (Steve Zahn). After stealing a motor home, they arrive in the town of Happy, Texas, where they are mistaken for a gay couple who have come to help the young girls of the town qualify for a state-wide beauty pageant. The pair decide to go along with the scam so that they can collect the legitimate fee and rob the local bank as well. While Wayne works with the girls and their instructor, Ms. Schaefer (Illeana Douglas), Harry puts the moves on the bank president, Jospehine (Ally Walker). All the while, the pair receive assistance and support from the local sheriff, played by William H. Macy, who has no idea that he’s dealing with escaped prisoners.

Watching ’Happy, Texas’ is like going to the salad bar only to find that there’s no more lettuce, because everything that we’d like to see is left out. The story has a great cast and an intriguing premise, but they are wasted. Instead of focusing on the beauty pageant and Wayne’s inept attempts to train the girls, the film instead insists on showing us Harry and Josephine. Who cares?! If I wanted to watch a romance, I would! I want to see funny pageant stuff. The scenes with Zahn doing his schtick are few and far between, and the movie suffers from this. As a result, the film is neither terribly funny nor moving. The film never gels and even at 98 minutes, seems terribly long.

The Buena Vista Home Entertainment DVD of ’Happy, Texas’ is presented as a Miramax Collector’s Edition. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1. The picture is very clear and the colors in the film are quite nice.

The audio on the DVD is a Dolby 2-channel surround, which is adequate, offering well-balanced dialogue and sound effects. The DVD features an audio commentary with director Mark Illsley and writer Ed Stone. The duo speak at length about the origins of the film and are very enthusiastic throughout their talk. There is also an interview on the disc with the team where they describe their experiences at Sundance. There are several deleted scenes, most of which are actually original versions of scenes that were re-shot. The DVD includes the theatrical trailer for ’Happy, Texas’ and bonus music videos. While there are some nice supplements on the disc, ’Happy, Texas’ left me decidedly emotionless.