Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Happy, Texas


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.

Lastly, here is a good example of why we always watch the end credits to the bitter end, even though they may now stretch to well over eight minutes these days as every person who refilled the water cooler or mopped the floors in the Saigon or Mumbai digital sweatshops where underpaid “in-betweeners” labor to fill in all the enormous detail of today’s CGI movies gets to have his or her name in the roll. We always look out for the caterers, who often have humorous names. But sometimes there is real gold. Such as:

“Thanks to the people in Happy, Texas… even though we shot entirely on location in Piru, California. Sorry.”

“No animals were harmed in the making of this film, but a few rabbits had their feelings hurt.”

Now wouldn’t it have been a crime to miss those?