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IN SHORT: Crystal-line Perfection.
Once Upon A Time, when television was in black and white, a producer named Ralph Edwards hit it big with a biographical show called "This is Your Life". The featured celeb would be surprised by friends and family and it usually wound up all sentimental and mushy. There'll by no such surprise for Sammy Kamen (Billy Crystal) who tells us his life story, Catskills comic style, as he tools through the Romanian countryside in the first few minutes of My Giant, a terrifically touching and funny flick.
As Sammy, the agent to a motley collection of not-even-close-to stars, Crystal pushes buttons both comic and sentimental and creates a yuppie who, like most of us near his age, realizes that work means nothing without family. That family, wife Serena (Kathleen Quinlan) and son Nick (Zane Carney), have left his humble New York City abode for a more structured life in Chicago.
Sonny needs only one big client to strike it rich, and he thinks he's found it in some kidlet star. The kid, making a movie in Romania, fires him thus putting Sammy on the road to his Destiny. Destiny, in this case, stands nearly eight foot tall and is named Max (Gheorge Muresan). Max, abandoned by his parents and raised by monks wants nothing more than to be left alone. He's never seen a movie, indeed he doesn't believe people would get paid for "acting". He's terrified to go into town, where the people throw rocks at him and call him "Diablo Grotesque".
As Sammy puts it, he stopped growing sometime in the Fifth Grade. The physical differences between the two men alone are funny. The self-deprecating nice Jewish boy character that Crystal has perfected to a tee is perfectly matched by the gargantuan giant who, by example, teaches Sam to be more than a character. Lest his looks fool you, Max speaks five languages, quotes Shakespeare and has an burning unrequited love for a woman he kissed once, twenty years earlier. Watching these two men becomes friends is and watching what Sam will do for his client (smelling the potential of big bucks) and then for his friend (realizing the true meaning of life) pushes the flick into the inevitable heart wrenching sentimentality which I'm supposed to hate.
It is not that the story is unique -- it knows and acknowledges the fairy tale it draws from. As well, those of you who remember the World Wrestling Federation star Andre the Giant (co-star of Crystal's The Princess Bride) may recognize stories from that man's life woven into Max's character as well. Crystal is not telling his friend Andre's story, but enough elements are there that you can feel the truth of the tale seep through. The comedy comes from the combination of size and culture and life expectations and though you'll see it coming, you won't mind getting buried in the avalanche of warm fuzzies that whack you upside the head and heart as the picture comes near its end.
Honest truth-time, folks: Here in the office, we received lots of freebies to various sneak previews of this flick. Because of the television commercial, featuring the one and only lewd joke in the movie, no one in the office wanted to see this flick. Cranky was the only one who shlepped uptown 'cuz, the fact of the matter is that it's my job. I sit through a hundred and fifty or so movies every year, of which I'd guess about a hundred and twenty five or so are crap. Every once in a while there comes a movie like My Giant, which makes sitting through all the garbage worthwhile.
Damn thing made me cry. I hate that. I loved My Giant.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to My Giant, he would have paid . . .
There's may be an unwritten rule that critics are supposed to hate sentimentality; then again, I've never followed the rules. I've also not plugged the star cameo that becomes the focus of the flick, 'cuz you should enjoy the guy making fun of his rep.
comes highly recommended.
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