Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Horrible Non-Horror! Little People, Big Mess

Welcome, leprechauns, leprechaun hunters, corned beef enthusiasts and Irish hating readers. I have not one drip of emerald blood in my bones, so in honor of this day after the day after the Ides of March holiday, I've decided to celebrate the first of what I hope to be a regular (and by regular I mean random) new segment here at the Doll's House called Horrible Non-Horror! The exclamation point is included.

Basically, I watch a lot of movies that are not what you, your blind grandmother, deaf Dalmatian, or illiterate water bottle would consider quality entertainment. Even though some may not fall under the horror banner, they are indeed horrifically wonderful in ways that are just selfish of me to not share with you. Hence, Horrible Non-Horror!

Enough explanation of a self-explanatory title. On to today's special (and by special, I mean especially horrendous) feature, Tiptoes! (exclamation provided by me; I'm just really excited).

For most actors, the term “chameleon” is a compliment of the highest order, a power of transformation many charisma sweating superstars can’t even fathom. Bruce Willis may be subdued in The Sixth Sense, but he’s still John McClain (just with cleaner feet), while even someone with unusual bone structure like Hilary Swank can disappear into a role, whether she’s an awkwardly in love transexual in Boys Don’t Cry or a hot single mom on Beverly Hills, 90210.
So what do you get when you take one static, stubbly actor with the range of a beach volleyball and cast one of filmdom’s most unique and versatile actors as his limping twin dwarf brother?

The answer, of course, is 2003‘s Tiptoes, an epically awful, manically confused, and amazingly entertaining high profile flop with massive identity issues. 
Quick Plot: Matthew McConaughy plays Steven, a fireman instructor with a signature twang and dark family secret: he is the only over 5 footer in a family of dwarves. This could almost remain under wraps if it weren’t for two great excuses to plot a movie: a) the arrival of Steven’s twin brother Rolfe (Gary Oldman in what the trailer calls “the performance of a lifetime; whose lifetime it refers to is not specified) and b) the surprise pregnancy of Steven’s artist girlfriend Carol (Kate Beckinsale, constantly bewildered).

For most of his life, Steven has been rather ambivilant about his height and family’s lack thereof. We know this because Carol later questions the ambivilant Steven about his ambivalence while using the word ‘ambivalent’ about 19 times. His ambivalence is further emphasized when he inexpilcably brings a few tall ladies to a little person’s pool party, as if to imply an impending affair that is never referenced again.

In case you couldn’t guess from the intro, trailer, premise, or fact that you may never have heard of this movie, Tiptoes really not very good. At all. Directed by Freeway’s Matthew Bright, this bizarre direct-to-DVD enigma tries its little hands at a love story, slapstick comedy, human drama, and message movie while making a mess of just about everything and anyone that came near the film set. I’m at a loss for where to even begin, so in no particular order, here’s a list of what makes Tiptoes the first entry in my new series of Horrible Non-Horror!:

  • Characters have what seem to be relationship-ending fights, only to inexplicably appear together and happy two scenes later.
  • Peter Dinklage, playing a French Marxist, comes off as a really terrible actor

  • The film’s best scene is a round table What To Expect When You’re Expecting A Little Person how-to wherein Beckinsale’s character asks the president of the Dwarf Society “If I do have this baby and turns out to be little, what does this mean for me?”
  • The opening credits list each A-list actor before the title, probably because the editor was so amazed that such a collection of celebrities appear in this film

  • The film finds the opportunity to feature big-on-little sex with none other than David Alan Grier doing some (thankfully) fully clothed thrusting
  • Patricia Arquette plays a “free spirit” hitchhiker and somehow makes Juliette Lewis’ Mallory Knox look stable

  • Every character that is not a little person or major celebrity has a thick Eastern European accent
  • In a major confrontation, Kate Beckinsale heads to fireman training grounds in pajama pants, wedge heels, a tanktop, and winter hat
  • After the birth of the little man, McConaughy taunts his wife by begging her to admit that “He’s a dwarf!” over and over again, which means we get this scene:

Which is actually a wonderful thing

What went wrong? Aside from the fact that this movie was written, one itching issue is the casting of Gary Oldman--no 10’ tall Tom Noonan but an average height fella--as a dwarf, which seems akin to modern blackface or Jonathon Pryce taping back his skin to play a Vietnamese pimp in Miss Saigon. Despite the fact that there’s marriage and a baby plus aftermath, it never feels like anything actually happens in the film. Beckinsale speaks as though she’s slowly emerging from light anesthesia, McConaughy’s character is written as a frustratingly bipolar jerk, and poor Peter Dinklage has no better line than “I am French!” 

Lessons Learned
Food is free because God wants us to eat
When attending a party hosted by little people, try to avoid sporting a gigantic updo that adds about 6” to your already towering height

For a smooth drink, mix some French cough syrup with cognac
Becoming a truck driver will turn a man evil

Winning Line
“You had a circle jerk with little people? I would’ve loved to see this!”
Wouldn’t we all Carol, wouldn’t we all.

If you, like me, enjoy earnestly awful cinema like fine wine, then scoop Tiptoes from your local library and enjoy the strangely saccharine ride. Sadly, the DVD offers no behind-the-scenes insight or director commentary, but the very inclusion of the hysterically random trailer and fact that clear subtitles let you actually absorb all the horrendous dialogue is, in itself, something to thank the mini gods of movies for.  

Don't believe me? Enjoy the trailer and come back when you agree that when the going get tough, it's only the size of your heart that counts.


  1. You have got to be kidding me.

    Had you posted this on April 1st, I wouldn't have bought it for a second.

    Is it really, really real???

  2. Oh Wings. It's real. As soon as I learned it existed, I had to watch it simply to prove its actual existence. And it's there. In all its tragically insane bad glory, Tiptoes is collecting dust on some DVD store shelf as we speak.

  3. That trailer...yikes. I wonder if this is one of those movies where you can see the actors mentally cashing their paycheck as you watch it.

    Also, one thing I learned from this review that I would never know since I won't ever watch this movie, there is apparently a French version of purple drank.

  4. I always thought of it as a French Flaming Homer/Moe, but yes indeed either way!

  5. The trailer mentions the stars giving "command performances."

    It must have been at the command of whoever has the pictures of them clubbing baby seals to death.

  6. Steve, I believe there must indeed be photos of wildlife crimes for this film to have been made. I can imagine Oldman has some serious skeletons in his closet that finally came back to haunt him. As for McConaughy, considering he was once famously found nakedly playing bongos, I can only imagine what we DON'T know about his personal life. Good on Matthew Bright to capitalize on his hidden past!

    I would also guess that during filming, most of the cast started to realize what was going on and drowned their sorrows in Flaming Purple Drank Beverages subsequently finding themselves in many a compromising position with a circle of dwarfs. It certainly explains Arquette's performance.

  7. Oh my gods. I so thought I was the only person who'd accidentally seen this.

    It's magical, and I will never forget it.

  8. I've been trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to get more and more people to watch this. At first I went with the obvious "It's so wonderfully terrible!" slant but as that has yet to yield any results, I'm now trying reallllllly hard to tell coworkers and friends that it's actually a really great film that has somewhere fallen under the radar. I feel like that will get a better final reaction anyway.