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Crazy on the Outside -- Film Review

The Bottom Line

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Tim Allen clearly called in some chits for his directorial debut, having snared an unusually starry cast for this indie effort about an ex-con trying to go straight. But despite Allen's appealing performance in the lead role and solid supporting turns by the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Ray Liotta, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Kelsey Grammer, among others, "Crazy on the Outside" is ultimately as generic and forgettable as its title. The film opened Friday without being screened for critics.

The story begins with Tommy's (Allen) release from prison after serving a three-year stint for video piracy (perhaps this is what appealed to the film's financiers). The would-be wackiness ensues when he learns that his habitually lying sister, Viki (Weaver), has told his grandmother that he's been in France, resulting in much Gallic-oriented humor when he returns home.

After dutifully reporting to his no-nonsense parole officer Angela (Tripplehorn), Tommy lands a job at a pirate-themed fast-food restaurant (cue "Rrrrr" jokes), though what he really wants is to resume his late father's house-painting business. Further complications involve the sudden reappearances of his old flame, Christy (Julie Bowen), who his sister had informed him was dead, and Gray (Liotta), his old partner in crime who attempts to woo him back into his underworld activities.

Resembling a sitcom-style remake of the gritty Dustin Hoffman classic "Straight Time" (the screenplay was written by TV comedy veterans Judd Pillot and John Peaslee, of "Just Shoot Me" and "Eight Simple Rules," respectively), the film awkwardly veers between sensitive drama -- Tommy and his parole officer begin a tentative relationship, encouraged by her adorable teen son -- and farcical humor.

It's understandable that Allen would want to break free of his Disney mold, and his performance hints at depths that the film unfortunately doesn't support. But with neither the dramatic nor comedic aspects of the story line being remotely convincing, the best efforts of the talented cast go for naught.

Opened: Friday, Jan. 8 (Freestyle Releasing)
Production: Boxing Cat Films
Cast: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Ray Liotta, Julie Bowen, Jeanne Tripplehorn, J.K. Simmons, Kelsey Grammer
Director: Tim Allen
Screenwriters: Judd Pillot, John Peaslee
Producers: Richard Baker, Brett Gregory, Brian Reilly, Anastasia Stanecki
Executive producer: Justin Moritt
Editor: Scott Conrad
Production designer: Robert Pearson
Costume designer: Valerie Laven-Cooper
Music: David Newman
Rated PG-13, 96 minutes