Eric D. Snider

Tiptoes

After "Tiptoes" had its premiere screening at Sundance, director Matthew Bright told the audience the producers threw him off the film as soon as shooting was done, and that while he hasn't seen (and won't see) the finished product, he's certain they botched it.

Well, "Tiptoes" is a mess, for sure. But I think it would have been a mess anyway, given that its screenplay (by Bill Weiner) is sanctimonious and maudlin, playing like an educational film on dwarfism, and that the performances are one-dimensional.

There is an affable dwarf named Rolfe (Gary Oldman) with a normal-sized twin brother named Steven (Matthew McConaughey, who is 11 years younger than Gary Oldman). Their parents are little people, too -- a fact Steven has hidden from his girlfriend Carol (Kate Beckinsale).

Steven's maybe a little embarrassed by his small family, but when Carol gets pregnant, the possibility she will have a dwarf baby makes it crucial that everything be discussed openly. This leads to much Movie-of-the-Week angst and informative conversation. ("Did you know dwarfism affects this and this and this?" "Why, no, I didn't, please tell me more.")

For some reason, Rolfe's dwarf friend Maurice (Peter Dinklage) is a crazy French radical, and for some other reason, Maurice picks up a normal-sized hippie named Lucy (Patricia Arquette) on the side of the road and starts fooling around with her. Maurice and Lucy serve no function in the film other than to make it seem almost surreally ridiculous.

You may have noted that Rolfe, a dwarf, is played by Gary Oldman, who is 5'10". This is achieved through the movie magic of having Oldman walk around on his knees. One scene has his lower legs digitally removed, which probably cost a lot but which looks embarrassingly fake. Another time, his lower legs are clearly visible through a glass coffee table that was supposed to keep them hidden. Most of the time, you just wonder, if he's a dwarf, why are his arms so long?

At every turn, we are given more information on dwarfism, and more mini-lessons on how to be tolerant and appreciative of little people. All of which would be fine, if it were part of a movie that was interesting, entertaining or well-acted. But in this case, it's part of a movie that's stilted and awkward -- not altogether boring, I must say, because there's a certain trainwreck curiosity about it, but not recommendable, either. It's a barely watchable experiment gone awry.

Grade: C-

Rated R, a lot of harsh profanity, some brief sexuality

1 hr., 30 min.

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