Who is Cletis Tout?

Cletis Tout is dead. Trevor Finch thinks that this is a good thing, especially when he assumes Tout's identity. Finch (Christian Slater, Windtalkers, Zoolander) just escaped from prison with his friend Micah (Richard Dreyfuss, The Crew, Fail Safe), an older magician who always spoke about escaping and finding a box of diamonds he buried long ago. Who is Cletis Tout? actually begins with Finch strapped to a chair, with an angry hit man sitting before him. Critical Jim (Tim Allen, Big Trouble, Joe Somebody) is a lover of movies, as is writer/director Chris Ver Wiel (Waiting Game). Ver Wiel has his characters talk about old movies, quote lines from classic movies, and even has Finch tell Critical Jim the events that led up to Critical Jim finding him as a pitch.

The problem with this is that by putting so much effort into getting relevant quotes and funny anecdotes, Ver Wiel neglects his own script. Who is Cletis Tout? has an overly complex feel to it, like the makers are trying to play with the audience and keep them guessing as to what is truly going on. If done right, this can be an exhilarating feeling. Here, it gets a little annoying. Things are complex for complexity's sake and nothing else. His joke to laugh ratio is surprisingly moderate, especially when compared to similar films. This means that out of the sheer number of references he (sometimes haphazardly) throws in, less than half are funny, but there are actually some good ones. Another problem Ver Wiel encounters by mentioning many classic films is that it reminds people how good those films are, and how so-so this one is. Of all the actors, Slater is the only one worth watching. His cool demeanor serves as a sort of anchor for the film, although it's never clear why he will go for the diamonds in the first place. He is out of jail and apparently has connections, so money should not be an issue. He even gets a large sum of money from a friend as soon as he's out of jail. Allen is not enjoyable to watch, mainly because he seems like he is trying to look cool and clever, and it doesn't work.

The story kicks into high gear once Micah contacts his daughter Tess (Portia de Rossi, Stigmata, Women in Film). Together, the three of them plan to search for the diamonds. Unfortunately, there is a lot of baggage that comes with the Cletis Tout persona that Finch assumes, and this complicates the matter. Needless to say, they go on the run from the police, inept mob goons, and Finch and Tess detest each other so much that it can only mean they eventually fall in love. What is kind of strange is, even with all the plot twists and turns, Who is Cletis Tout? follows a pretty conventional narrative. Ver Wiel spruced it up by having the story jump back and forth in time, but not much else. Take away all these things and there is a noticeable lack of substance.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated R for language, some violence, and sexuality.

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