Entertainment

‘In & Out’ A Festival Of Gay Humor

Oscar fans will always remember the acceptance speech that Tom Hanks gave following his Best Actor win for “Philadelphia.”

Having played a gay lawyer stricken with AIDS who sues for wrongful dismissal, Hanks enthralled the audience with a powerfully emotional speech that included a mention of his high school drama teacher.

The teacher, you’ll recall, was gay.

It is on that minimal precept that screenwriter Paul Rudnick (“The Addams Family”) based his script for “In & Out,” a new comedy directed by Frank Oz and starring Kevin Kline.

Here’s the difference: Hanks obtained prior approval from his teacher.

In “In & Out,” Oscar winner Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon) doesn’t even know for sure that his teacher, Howard Brackett (Kline), is gay. Of course, much of the film’s ensuing humor involves Howard not knowing it either.

He certainly doesn’t know it when he sits with his fiance (Joan Cusack) and watches Cameron “out” him on national television. He’s shocked, in fact, as are the rest of the folks in Greenleaf, Ind., the farming town in which Howard has grown up and in whose high school he teaches English.

Naturally, troubles loom. His students begin to see him differently (he’s so clean, don’t you know). His colleagues, resentful of his popularity, begin to plot against him. And he is hounded mercilessly by both the mainstream and tabloid press.

One of the latter is Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck), a “Hard Copy”-type broadcast reporter who would love to be Barbara Walters. Peter, who freely admits his homosexuality, ultimately points Howard in the direction of self-awareness.

This is the world as viewed by screenwriter Rudnick, one of Hollywood’s few openly gay personalities, who has constructed a script that is hilariously clever. In fact, even as his plot stumbles to its pat ending, Rudnick’s savage sense of comedy makes “In & Out” a virtual festival of gay humor.

The clues regarding Howard, for example, are as rampant as they are satirical. If a song is playing on his CD player, it’s bound to be a show tune (Ethel Merman maybe?). He wakes up to the Village People singing “Macho Man.”

At his bachelor party, a virtual riot breaks out over Barbra Streisand. “She was too OLD for ‘Yentl,”’ one of his friends declares.

He’s the track coach for a team named the Gladiators.

There are other comic touches, too, many of them regarding Hollywood or other facets of the celebrity life. On the night that Cameron Drake wins his Oscar (for his second film), the other nominees are Paul Newman for “Coot,” Clint Eastwood for “Codger,” Michael Douglas for “Primary Urges” and Steven Seagal for “Snowball in Hell.”

Cameron’s supermodel girlfriend, upset at the actor for not helping her prepare for an afternoon fashion show for “Isaac,” whines, “Cameron, I have to shower and vomit.”

But the funniest bits involve Kline. An Oscar-winner himself for “A Fish Called Wanda,” Kline proves to be not only a verbal but also a physical talent. A scene where he tries to follow the direction of a self-help audiotape about how to be a “real” man is as funny - thanks to Diana Ross - as anything “The Full Monty” has to offer.

Selleck, too, is terrific. His playing off of his macho “Magnum P.I.” image is the literal definition of irony. He joins Reynolds, Brimley, Cusack, Dillon and Bob Newhart in providing a solid background for Kline’s lead performance.

In the end, “In & Out” becomes a bit preachy about tolerance, understanding, etc. The problem here is that such a plea simply isn’t needed. If you appreciate the humor, you probably already agree with the message.

Conversely, if you agree with the message, you can fully appreciate Rudnick’s humor. One final example: While chasing Howard, one of the reporters yells out a question. “Are there lesbians on Mars?” she asks.

Now that’s funny. Ridiculous, only slightly far-fetched, and funny.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: These 2 sidebars appeared with the story:

1. “In & Out” *** Locations: North Division, Spokane Valley Mall, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls cinemas Credits: Directed by Frank Oz, starring Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck, Matt Dillon, Debbie Reynolds, Wilford Brimley Running time: 1:30 Rating: PG-13

2. OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “In & Out:” Duane Byrge/The Hollywood Reporter: A warm farce about being “different,” in this case gay, “In & Out” should tap the same appreciative moviegoers as those who warmed to such diverse, sleeper hits as “The Birdcage” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” Jay Boyar/The Orlando Sentinel: … this high-spirited comedy is one of the freshest and funniest films of the year.

These 2 sidebars appeared with the story:

1. “In & Out” *** Locations: North Division, Spokane Valley Mall, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls cinemas Credits: Directed by Frank Oz, starring Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck, Matt Dillon, Debbie Reynolds, Wilford Brimley Running time: 1:30 Rating: PG-13

2. OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “In & Out:” Duane Byrge/The Hollywood Reporter: A warm farce about being “different,” in this case gay, “In & Out” should tap the same appreciative moviegoers as those who warmed to such diverse, sleeper hits as “The Birdcage” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” Jay Boyar/The Orlando Sentinel: … this high-spirited comedy is one of the freshest and funniest films of the year.



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