Sundance is not the real world. There's no need to look further than ''Happy, Texas'' to be reminded that the same crowds who get knocked off their feet in the mountains of Utah can kick a film in the keister back at sea level. This year's high-altitude darling -- and the object of the festival's hottest bidding war -- was ''Tadpole,'' which was eventually snapped up by Miramax for $5 million. And aside from the fact that the tiny screwball romantic comedy was shot on digital video (and at times looks like it was shot on wax paper), it feels like a safer bet than ''Happy, Texas'' turned out to be.
Newcomer Stanford plays Oscar Grubman, a precocious prep-schooler who spouts Voltaire and affects the same doomed-romantic pose as ''Rushmore'''s Max Fischer. When Max, uh, Oscar returns home to Manhattan to spend the holidays with his remarried father (Ritter), he decides to act on his unhealthy attraction to his stepmom (Weaver). It doesn't help that he drowns his unrequited sorrows and winds up stumbling into bed with his stepmom's frisky best friend (Neuwirth). Brags Stanford: ''I got to kiss Sigourney Weaver and Bebe Neuwirth on my first film! Come on, what's not to like about acting?''