Say It Isn’t So

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Have we reached the point in civilization where jokes about incest, handicaps and bodily fluids not just aren’t shocking anymore, but also aren’t even funny? Yes. Yes, we have.

“Say It Isn’t So,” which was produced by the notorious Farrelly Brothers who wrote and directed “There’s Something About Mary” and “Dumb & Dumber,” manages several moments so shocking they may inspire laughter. But only a few of them. And it’s not enough, because the film certainly doesn’t warrant much attention on its other merits.

If all you’ve got to eat is a pile of crap, you at least want there to be a lot of crap in it. This crappy movie is virtually crap-free.

The film begins in Shelbyville, Ind., where animal-shelter employee Gilbert Noble (Chris Klein) meets the new girl in town, a very hot and inept barber named Jo Wingfield (Heather Graham). After she gives him a bad trim and chops off most of his ear, they fall in love and plan to get married.

But Gilly, who grew up in an orphanage, has been looking for his mother and now discovers: It’s Jo’s trailer-trash mom, Valdine (Sally Field). Gilly and Jo are brother and sister! And they already did it! (A strong case for abstinence before marriage, I guess.)

Disgraced, Jo heads back to Beaver, Ore. (tee-hee!), where she was seeing another guy before moving back with her parents in Shelbyville. Gilly stays in Indiana and puts up with a steady stream of “pervert” remarks. He’s living with his new-found mom and her husband, Walter (Richard Jenkins), whose recent stroke makes him have to talk through a “hilarious” robotic voice simulator.

Then Valdine’s REAL son, Leon (Jack Plotnick) shows up. Somehow, Gilly had gotten it wrong, and he isn’t Jo’s brother after all. He races off to Oregon to stop her from marrying her smarmy other boyfriend, Jack (Eddie Cibrian), and is assisted along the way by a crazy legless man named Dig (Orlando Jones).

The first half-hour of the film is actually very funny in a gross-out, Farrelly Brothers kind of way, with some delightfully absurd dialogue. (A redneck friend of Gilly’s comments that he doesn’t want a Russian pomeranian because “I don’t want to put any American dogs out of work.” Later Gilly tells Jo, “I don’t want you to feel like you have to cook me dinner just because I found your cat and you cut off my ear.”)

But then it dies fast, leaving behind most of the comedy and focusing on the bland, whispery Chris Klein and his character’s pursuit of Heather Graham. Only Orlando Jones shows a real enthusiasm for his role, though I admit finding Sally Field somewhat entertaining as utter white trash.

Movies like this are an indication of humanity at its lowest. Gilly can’t just meet a wacky guy who helps him win back Jo; that guy has to be an amputee. Jo’s dad can’t just be old; he has to have an electronic voice machine. Amputees and stroke victims are not unreasonable characters to include in a movie. But when they’re there just for laughs — and, worse, when those laughs don’t come — it becomes crass.

Tastelessness is one thing; we’ve learned to deal with it and even enjoy it at times. Unfunny tastelessness is what’s unforgiveable.

C- (; R, frequent harsh profanity, abundant vulgarity, some strong sexuality, some strong violence played laughs.)

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