Perfectly Normal Review

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A Canadian dweeboid (Riley) and an American con-man (Coltrane) unite in a bid to live out their respective — but equally zany — ambitions.


"A guy can dream, right? Even a little guy can dream." Thus the message of this movie, and not the first time it's been said. Set in the least picturesque part of Canada imaginable, it tells the tale of Renzo (Riley), a nerd who slaves in the brewery by day and shoots basketball by night with the works team, and figures to spend the cash left to him by his recently deceased mama on a dream house in the country. Enter the enormously American Turner (Coltrane), who also has a dream — to open an Italian restaurant where the waiters wail operatic arias at you while slinging the spaghetti sauce. Unhappily, he had this dream before, and as a result is wanted for questioning south of the border. But this time he's determined to make it fly — and he figures on Renzo's inheritance to get it off the ground.

We're back in whimsy-land, and if the tour operators are any good — as in, for example, It's A Wonderful Life or Field Of Dreams — then a fine time beckons. Perfectly Normal misses the bullseye by a mile, but not for want of a quirky premise, an occasionally amusing script and a very, very funny performance from Robbie Coltrane. A combination of Ernie Bilko and Walter Matthau blown up to family size, the Scots actor-comedian not only seizes every scene by its scruff with a bravura display of schmoozing blarney, but is one of the very few performers this side of the pond who can parley-voo convincing American.

Coltrane's contagious energy only serves to throw into relief the movie's more wan aspects - the love interest and the hate interest sub-plots that fail to flesh our interest in the personality of poor Renzo; the very fact that Renzo, with whom we should identify, is such a gormless loser (no-one has been able to sell us gormless losers since Jack Lemmon started playing older roles); and, most heinously, the inappropriately flashy direction by Yves Simoneau which not only screams for attention to the detriment of narrative clarity and mood, but where endless close-ups give the film a tawdry, made-for-TV look. Perfectly Normal could have been a contender; instead it's in equal measure likeable and irritating.

A fine comic performance from Robbie Coltrane can't compensate for the fact that this is over-directed and nowhere near as crowd-pleasing as it should be.