Happy Texas rating 
3.5/5 Happy Texas

Director Mark Illsely
Writer Mark Illsley, Ed Stone
Stars Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn, Ally Walker, Illeana Douglas
Certificate 12
Running time 100 minutes
Country US
Year 1999
Associated shops

Reviewed by Nicholas Dawson

CREDIT card fraudster Harry (Jeremy Northam) and car thief Wayne Wayne Wayne Jnr. (Steve Zahn) break out of prison and escape the cops by stealing a camper van. The van belongs to Steven and David, a gay couple who organise beauty pageants. When the fugitives arrive in Happy, Texas where the couple are expected, they have to masquerade as Steven and David to avoid capture. Their pretence is made harder by both of them falling in love with 'Happy' women.

The "Southern dead end town, where the residents are so dim it's easy to rob the bank, but difficult to get out" idea has been done a fair few times before, both seriously and comically, with varying degrees of success. What gives Happy Texas the edge over most of its predecessors is its gay angle. Watching the slow-witted Wayne, teeth forever gritted, and his brainier partner Harry being forced to get in touch with their feminine, caring side is great fun, and often a real hoot.

Zahn gives a wonderful performance, as Wayne transforms from hardened criminal into sensitive 'new man'. The comedy is warm, witty and human, and there are some great lines and clever set-pieces. William H. Macy is typically terrific in a supporting role as Happy's sheriff who comes out when 'Steven and David' hit town. Though hardly the most profound of films, this is a very enjoyable, quirky little slice of entertainment which will no harm whatsoever to the reputation of up-and-coming writer/director Mark Illsley. Happy? You're darn tootin'.

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