They sure don't make them like they used to, but if they did, it would be something like "Who Is Cletis Tout?" No special effects, no pop music soundtrack, just a good old fashioned light hearted crime caper, filled with a bunch of first rate stars, and ninety or so minutes to capture our imagination.
Tim Allen plays Critical Jim, an independent hit man for the mob, with a penchant for the glory days of Hollywood. He'll throw out quotes from the Shootist as he gets ready to kill you. His prey this time is an escaped convict named Finch, played by Christian Slater. Finch is in a case of mistaken identity which has got him out of the frying pan with his recent prison break and into the fire with both the mob and the police who are after his new fake identity, a dead photo-journalist named Cletis Tout. The set up for this movie is that Jim is supposed to kill Tout but has some time to waste before the mob confirms the money transfer. So Critical Jim offers Finch a chance, and if his prey can spin him a Hollywood like yarn that's worth telling, then he might just forget about his job.
With that, writer and director Chris Ver Wiel takes us on a continuous flashback story that brings everything around. Cletis Tout carries an overall feeling of a movie that was made when the studio system cranked out celluloid dreams. The star studded cast matches the story's' stereotypes, Richard Dreyfuss appears as the aging convict that Slater escapes with, who has a beautiful blonde daughter, played by Portia De Rossi. And at times both Slater and Allen get hustled and helped by the transgendered RuPaul. While the celebrities hold their own, the background cast of police and mob henchmen bring the movie to life, with some goofy asides that make the moment.
Although the movie drags at parts, (just how many times can we watch homing pigeons fly back and forth?), "Who is Cletis Tout?" offers a welcome alternative to the special effects laden summer fare. While it has all the nutritional value of a pulp detective or romance novel, it's a solid albeit sappy movie about the characters and the story unfolding around them.
Film buffs will enjoy Cletis Touts play on the classics, and movie goers with a desire for something other than a blue screen budget will have something to see. "Who is Cletis Tout?" is likely to pass through the cinema system quickly on its way to DVD and will surely be an in-flight hit this fall. And when it does, rent the headsets while you can, "Who is Cletis Tout?" is a worthwhile distraction that will keep you from being bored at any altitude.
For Movie Magazine, this is Purple
© 2002 - Purple - Air Date: 7/31/02
Who Is Cletis Tout?
USA - 2001