Getting the alias was half the battle.
Who is Cletis Tout? is a twisting and turning comedy/crime caper that features Christian Slater as Finch, an escaped con with a whopper of a story to tell. The film opens with hitman Critical Jim (Tim Allen, The Santa Clause) ready to plug Finch, a man who's having a serious and unlucky identity crisis. It seems that Finch was given the stolen identity of the deceased Cletis Tout, and now everyone seems to want Finch/Tout dead! As Critical Jim waits for a payoff to "off" Finch, he requests that his captive spin him an old fashioned Hollywood yarn. As Finch "pitches" Jim his story, the tale includes a few unexpected events involving a genial magician-turned-bank robber (Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws), his beautiful and intelligent daughter (Portia de Rossi, Ally McBeal), and an old box full of stolen diamonds that just happens to be buried next to an oak tree…in a minimum security prison!
On the golden oldie radio show The Shadow, the announcer would often quip "For those who came in late…" Well, Who is Cletis Tout? is belated by about eight or nine years, give or take a month. This film may have been fresh and inspired during the Pulp Fiction regime; in 2003, it's a tad bit stale by any cinematic standard. This isn't to say that Who is Cletis Tout? is a bad movie; just a somewhat derivative and bland one. The story delves into flashbacks and eventually comes back around to its starting point, much like a Quentin Tarantino script—the only exception being that this one is far less interesting. One of the film's gimmicks is Tim Allen's character Critical Jim; Jim is so enamored with Hollywood movies that he often quotes the dialogue, the film's name, and the studio that produced it. By the last half of the story this theme became tiresome—there are only so many times a person can watch Allen quote Breakfast at Tiffany's before their patience runs thin. As for the story, it deals with the mistaken identity of Finch as Tout, and his attempt at retrieving the stolen diamonds from the magician's hiding place, et cetera. In other words, a lot of ho-hum exposition. A few subplots exist (Dreyfuss as a magician/crook and de Rossi as his daughter, hit men who want to take Tout out), though most of them are only mildly intriguing. Christian Slater plays…well, Christian Slater in full-fledged Jack Nicholson mode (there's even a humorous reference to the actor's resemblances). Allen, a likable presence in such films Toy Story 2 and Big Trouble, tends to grate a bit this time around (though this is due in part of the screenplay, not Allen's performance). The two people who manage to rise above the mundane material include RuPaul as a sexually charged cross-dressing neighbor and Billy Connolly (White Oleander) as Dr. Savian, a left-of-center morgue worker with a thick Scottish accent. Though this review is a tad harsh, Who is Cletis Tout? isn't a complete loss—as a Friday night rental you could do far worse (and the countless times I have could fill up an entire website and three pamphlets). If a few of the other bigger name titles are out, go ahead and give this a spin.
Who is Cletis Tout? is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Paramount has done a fine job at making sure the print is clear of any excessive dirt, grain or other imperfections that might otherwise mar the image. Seeing as Cletis Tout is a newer film, it's no surprise to find this transfer filled with solid colors and black levels throughout. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Though Who is Cletis Tout? is a dialogue-driven caper, there area few decent directional effects to be found in this mix (i.e., some gunfire, Randy Edleman's bouncy score). All aspects of the mix are free and clear of any hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track in English (though the big question is "why?") and English subtitles.
Since the film bombed upon its initial theatrical release, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Who is Cletis Tout? is void of even a single extra feature. The harder thing to swallow is the $29.99 list price! Ouch!
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