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Review: My Giant

April 15, 1998|By JASON MYERS

The life of Sam (Billy Crystal), a New York agent who pretends to be more successful than the B-movie reality, is summarized through narration within the first five or 10 minutes of "My Giant." This part reveals several things: the attention deficiency of our culture, the decline in cinematic storytelling, Billy Crystal's swift smarm and the dullness of this movie. The prior two have been discussed at great length, so I shall merely talk about the latter two.

Crystal has a keen anxiety. Perhaps this represents his resentment over his shortness, or the fact that he has not starred in a good movie this decade, or the superiority of his friend Robin Williams. For whatever reason, Crystal's facial muscles are drawn tightly, even when he's smiling. This expression would be perfectly matched with the dry, dour wit of someone like Stephen Wright, but Crystal envisions himself as the last of the Catskills performers, someone with slick, sunny shtick.

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Because of the comedic paradox he finds himself in, Crystal always seems to be working, not just in the traditional idiom of performance, wherein someone plays to the temper of an audience. Crystal has to break a sweat to get a laugh, and he will not stop talking until you laugh. I was surprised that he did not have a personal drummer follow him around to cap off each of his lines. Perhaps he realized that the audience could guess the punch line before the setup had even begun.

The author of this predictable, plodding bore is Brian Seltzer. Seltzer water combines bland flavor with offensive fizz, and that's a fairly solid description of this movie.

After the tasteless introduction to Sam, we find him traveling through Romania to the set of some cheap production of the David-Goliath story. Sam is the agent of David, until he gets to the set and finds the boy-actor has decided to fire him. So Sam goes the next logical step - he discovers Goliath.

Hidden away in a monastery is Max (George Muresan), an eight-foot tall monk who enjoys reciting Shakespeare. Sam gets Max drunk one night and convinces him to pursue a career in movies: It's a classic screen romance. Max agrees only on the stipulation that movie stardom will provide him with a better opportunity to unite with his lost love, who is living in Gallup, N.M.

Muresan, the center for the Washington Wizards, is charming, in a big and gawky way, sweetly likable - and a terrible actor. He exhibits the same facial expressions when he tells Sam he is mad, nauseous, uncertain and sad.

His voice is so warbled and unclear he could as well be reciting Jackie Collins when they say it is "Henry V." But alas, poor Muresan, I knew him to be intended even by the moviemakers not as an actor, just another gimmick.

As Williams' "Flubber" proved forcefully, movies that rely entirely on one simple object for their structural and conceptual integrity do not a handsome motion picture make.

Crystal's venture, while not as aesthetically awful as "Flubber," fares far worse morally because its gimmick is a human being. The way Sam keeps referring to Max as "my giant" as though he were an item of merchandise, both implies Max is a possession, as well as reduces him to his stature. It makes both men seem small.

"My Giant" proceeds very slowly, like a typical modern romantic comedy, with little romance and less comedy.

Sam tries to pawn off on the audience some spiritual enlightenment he received from Max, but it is completely unconvincing. There's little to delight in this movie. Like seltzer water, it's rather innocuous, but ill humored nonetheless.

Jason Myers is a 6-foot-2-inch senior at North Hagerstown High School.

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