Miramax’s marketing team does Outside Providence no favors by promoting it as an ”outrageous new comedy from the guys who made There’s Something About Mary.” Based on an autobiographical first novel by Mary cowriter-director Peter Farrelly (written long before he and brother Bobby advanced the piquant possibilities of flatulence in Dumb and Dumber), this unexceptional 1970s coming-of-age story is neither outrageous, new, nor comedic. Unless, of course, a beer-gulping widower (Alec Baldwin) affectionately calling his older son Dildo is your idea of hilarious.
Dildo, whose real name is Timothy Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy), grudgingly accepts a break from his stunted existence in grungily flavorful Pawtucket, R.I., when he’s sent off to a fancy New England prep school on scholarship. A dyspeptic stoner of working-class stock, naturally he’s an outsider. And naturally he wins the affection of the coolest girl at the girls’ school (Amy Smart) — apparently the only girl in all of New England — while also taking revenge on a repressive dean; protecting his kid brother, who’s in a wheelchair; and finding a way to connect with his inexpressive father.
Given the simple task of capturing a place and a time, director Michael Corrente (American Buffalo) loses his bearings, bringing nothing fresh, and everything bland, to the fog of nostalgia that has blanketed recent releases. And when that fog dissipates, what we’re left with are bad-hair movies in which kids do penny-ante, pot-dumb stuff.
Want to know what would be outrageous? The punchline ”And then I went to Hollywood and got famous.” But that’s one cosmic joke the Farrellys haven’t yet told.