The Austin Chronicle

My Giant

Rated PG, 104 min. Directed by Michael Lehmann. Starring Billy Crystal, Kathleen Quinlan, Gheorghe Muresan, Joanna Pacula, Zane Carney, Steven Seagal.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 17, 1998

In his film career, Billy Crystal has become a master of yuppie comedy: well-quipped tales about misguided schmos who must connect with their lost moral values in order to rediscover their mensch-hood. Intentionally or not, comedy has become less the point in Crystal's films (for examples see Fathers' Day, Forget Paris, Mr. Saturday Night, and City Slickers II) than the sentimental outflow; they can be read like those sentimental greeting cards with good punchlines. The advertising for My Giant that emphasizes the two-foot size difference between Crystal and the 7'7" Gheorghe Muresan leads us to expect a big man/little man type comedy along the lines of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Twins. Things start out promisingly enough as Sammy (Crystal), a second-tier Hollywood agent, travels to a movie set in Romania to visit his sole client. The client, a pompous teen actor, promptly fires him. To make matters worse, Sammy's wife, who is tired of his inattention, has just given him the heave-ho. Then, to top things off, he swerves his rental car off the road and crashes into the waters below. When Sammy sees two giant hands lifting him from the car, he assumes they are the hands of God. They turn out to belong to Max (Muresan), a Shakespeare-quoting giant who lives as a ward of the local monastery. As Sammy figures out ways to exploit his new find, the film turns from straight comedy into more of an investigation of What Makes Sammy Run. Sammy lands Max some movie work and uses some false pretenses to encourage Max to come to America. Along the way, Sammy, of course, develops new scruples as a result of his increasing fondness for Max and his desire to redeem himself in the eyes of his wife and son. The sentiment begins to bog down the comedy. The jokes grow more scant and director Lehmann (Heathers, The Truth About Cats and Dogs) brings none of his comic touch to the proceedings. Both sequences that take place on movie sets -- the one in Romania and another on a Steven Seagal set in Las Vegas during which the action star good-naturedly spoofs his image -- are pretty funny and there's also one righteous vomit scene, which should keep the little ones pacified. And even though the way Sammy keeps referring to Max as “my giant” is meant to sound silly, egotistical, and yet cuddly, there's something about his constant use of the phrase (and its repetition in the title) that dredges up the patronizing flavor of telethon-mode Jerry Lewis talking about “his kids.” NBA star Muresan is bound to get more acting work on the basis of his endearing performance here, but Crystal is best left keeping My Giant to himself.

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