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Review: 'My Giant' not good at tall

movie scenes April 16, 1998
Web posted at: 1:44 a.m. EDT (0544 GMT)

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- The way movies are put together nowadays, you can usually tell pretty much exactly what you'll be getting into before you even enter the theater, and commercial comedies are probably the most easily pinnable of all the genres.

I see it all the time. Take one look at the star, the tone of the trailer, even the music, and you just know that this one's going to be simple, sentimental, and maybe (if you're lucky) contain a couple of decent laughs.

But sometimes you're surprised. Sometimes jokes and ideas start zooming in out of left field and you get a pleasant buzz from what's happening on the screen. You actually find yourself liking the movie.

The new Billy Crystal vehicle, "My Giant," is not one of those movies.

If you know the title and saw the TV commercials, that's it, baby, and don't even hope for anything else. That's too bad, too, because I've always liked Billy Crystal a great deal. He's a throwback to the days of Al Jolson or Jack Benny, when it wasn't unheard of for an entertainer to tell funny stories, sing a little, dance a little, and even act in the occasional film.

Crystal, of course, has parlayed his basket full of talents into a career as a real-live movie star, but he's fallen into something of a nose-dive lately. Unfortunately, by-the-numbers sap-spraying like "My Giant" is not going to pull him out of it.

Crystal stars as Sammy, a fast-talking but struggling talent agent who, while on a "Braveheart"-like movie set in Romania, stumbles upon a 7-foot-7-inch meal ticket -- a shy monastery caretaker named Max (professional basketball player Gheorghe Muresan, who simply wings it).

People outside of Max's village view him as a freak or a demon, but, wouldn't you know it, Sammy discovers that he actually has a heart of gold and likes to recite Shakespeare! In a shocking turn of events, he does not have a cute little doggy.

Sammy has recently been fired by the spoiled brat actor who's starring in the swordplay epic, but he knows that the producers are still looking for an intimidating actor to play the leader of a competing army.

Enter Max, who agrees to become a "movie star" only if Sammy will then take him to America, where he hopes to find his long-lost childhood sweetheart, the only girl who's ever kissed him. Aaaaawwww. Did I say he's got a heart of gold and likes to recite Shakespeare? Oh, yeah. I already did.

Max, who has to drink himself into a stupor and be lifted onto his horse with a crane in order to deliver his single line of dialogue, turns into a big hit on the set because he projectile-vomits about 4 gallons of goop all over the snotty lead actor. That's really funny, I guess, because it would normally require five or six drunken performers to puke that much.

Some of the jokes aren't all that bad, but only because they don't involve copious amounts of vomit. (Castle Rock has my go-ahead to use that line on the poster.) They do, however, mostly consist of Max looking way too tall while sitting in a convertible, or eating tons of hot dogs at one time.

And, yes, when Sammy takes his giant to visit his New York Jewish family, his aunt asks Max how big his you-know-what is. David Seltzer, who also scripted "The Omen," wrote this, and that cries out for some kind of sarcastic remark, but I'm not gonna bother.

Half of the movie is made up of Crystal lugging Muresan around and trying to get people to put him in their movie. (This includes a cameo by Steven Seagal, who seems like a good sport, but, whoops -- too little too late, Steve!)

The "girlfriend," it turns out, thinks Max is a stalker more than anything else. He's been writing her love letters for 20 years, and she's never answered one. If that isn't tear-jerky enough, Max also has a heart condition and may not be long for this world.

Throughout these ordeals, Sammy becomes a "better person." He has an estranged wife and child, and if you think he's going to suddenly go berserk and chop them up with an ax, you haven't been paying attention.

Crystal is Crystal throughout, and I still like him for it. Muresan, on the other hand, is sweet but, shall we say, a limited performer. He also speaks as if he's storing potatoes in his cheeks for the oncoming Romanian winter. He's not any good, but, then again, Harrison Ford would be hard pressed to pretend that he's 7-foot-7.

"My Giant" would probably play better to children. There's an itty-bitty bit of swearing. Beware of sugar comas. Rated PG. 105 minutes.


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