Who’s In It: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Julie Bowen, J.K. Simmons, Ray Liotta, Jeanne Tripplehorn
The Basics: Tim Allen stars as Tommy, a recently paroled ex-con who finds that living with his compulsive liar sister (Sigourney Weaver), her horndog yuppie husband (J.K. Simmons), and their family is even weirder and wackier than life behind bars. When he discovers that his presumed-dead ex-girlfriend (Julie Bowen) is still alive and well, Tommy finds something to latch onto in this crazy new world – only she’s set to marry a pompous electronics chain store owner (Kelsey Grammer). On top of that, Tommy’s stuck working at a ridiculous pirate-themed fast food joint and his dream of starting up the old family paint business is being blocked by his attractive parole officer (Jeanne Tripplehorn), who might actually want to date him, too. It’s enough to drive a man back into his horrifically comfy former life of crime -- pirating DVDs to sell in China alongside Ray Liotta and his army of pretty LA black marketeers, which is the dumbest plot point in a movie made of nothing but dumb plot points.
What’s The Deal: Does the three-strikes law apply to movies, too? Because then this would be #1 for first-time director Tim Allen, who leads himself and his fellow thespians on a ham-fisted journey through the frustrating and awkward experience of re-entering society that actual real ex-cons probably don’t find all that funny. (Prior to his Home Improvement days, Allen served almost exactly the same time in jail as his character. Perhaps it is crazier on the outside!) Tim Allen fills his vanity project with the following in spades: broad, unfunny humor; CG-enhanced visual gags; fantasy sequences in which he kills/maims people who annoy him (if only you could dip a movie’s face in a vat of hot fry oil to make a point); and plenty of Tim Allen. Unless you’re the world’s biggest Tim Allen fan, Crazy on the Outside will be the most tedious 96 minutes you spend in 2010.
Guess Avatar Wasn’t A Fluke: Sigourney Weaver got a pass for James Cameron’s Avatar, in which she came off stiffer than Jake Sully’s human legs. Why? She’s Ripley, queen of the bad-ass movie heroines, and therefore beyond reproach – to a point. But as Tim Allen’s kooky suburban sister Vicky, Weaver falters under the comic weight of a character that demands she coo at J.K. Simmons, act simultaneously clueless and controlling, and generally play the funny woman to Allen’s straight man act. What would have worked instead is if she jumped into a power loader, grabbed little bro Tim Allen in her maternal, mechanical hands and yelled “Stay away from him, you bitch!” to all of the no-good friends who try to suck him back into his old life. Now that’s a movie I’d watch.
Who I Feel Sorriest For: Julie Bowen. The entire cast feels like a “cashing in a favor” score for Tim Allen, and for the most part every actor turns in a painfully earnest performance. But the actor who pulled the shortest stick from the unsubtle script by Judd Pillot and John Peaslee is Julie Bowen, who plays Tommy’s sexy, ditzy, and manipulative old flame; by the time she finds herself banging both Tim “The Tool-Man” Taylor and Frasier Crane, you wonder how the chick from Ed who got to marry Jack on Lost wound up stuck between these two old guys.
Highlights, If You’re A Fan Of Import Car Racing Movies: Sigourney Weaver road-rages her way through L.A. in her soccer mom car. In a really, really long montage, Tim Allen takes Ray Liotta’s fancy car on a high-speed drive that culminates at what looks like the multi-level garage from Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift. Side note: Liotta’s character thinks having “Turning Japanese” set as his ring tone is relevant because he sells DVDs to Chinese people. Still debating whether the character’s ignorance is intentional or not.