Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Happy, Texas

(1999)

Here is one of those little gems that show you don’t need a big budget to make a great comedy. What you need is a good idea and a great cast. The plot: Two small-time crooks accidentally escape from prison when the bus carrying them wrecks. They steal an RV owned by two gay men who travel the country organizing beauty pageants. Not the Miss America type pageant, more like the Jon Benet Ramsay type. They are mistaken for the men when they arrive in town, and complications ensue.

This was an unusual role for Jeremy Northam, and he does well. William H. Macy is always reliable. But the spark plug of the whole thing is the frenetic, unhinged Steve Zahn. He is the one charged with teaching the little tots to dance and so forth, and he knows absolutely nothing about it. He would rather have all his teeth pulled than do that job, but the great thing is that he slowly actually gets into it, and really cares how his girls will do. He makes it all work.

There really is a Happy, Texas, but the film was shot in Piru, California on a pretty small budget, in 22 days. I sure wish there were more films like this.