In & Out

on September 19, 1997 by Christine James
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   Surprisingly hilarious at some turns and overly simple at others, "In & Out" fades in and out in terms of its success as a comedy. Peppered liberally with celebrity cameos, it's a small film made to feel big while still seeming off the beaten path. The story is about a well-liked English teacher named Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline), whose impending marriage, peaceful life and personal emotions are thrown into turmoil when he is mistakenly "outed" in the national media by a former local boy-turned-superstar actor (Matt Dillon) who wins the Oscar for his poignant portrayal of a gay war hero. (The over-the-top clips from this film are one of "In & Out's" comic highlights.)
   In his acceptance speech, he thanks his former teacher Howard, whom he incorrectly announces is gay. Howard's friends and students don't know what to believe, and the rabid media won't let go of the story. It's pointed out to Howard that eliminating some of his more effeminate mannerisms might help squelch the rumors, but that task proves easier said than done for this die-hard Barbra Streisand devotee. (Howard's battle with his omniscient and abusive self-help tape is the other piece of comic genius the film has to offer.)
   Even as Howard must sort through his own feelings, the situation is further complicated by his insecure fiancee (Joan Cusack), who's freaking out, the high school principal (Bob Newhart), who's covertly threatening Brackett's job, and by the town's populace, whose reactions are mixed. There's not a lot of plot momentum and the denouement is a bit simplistic and patronizing, but this light-hearted fare has enough fun moments and witty social-commentary barbs to make it worthwhile--not to mention the fact that it features one of the funniest and most unexpected screen kisses in film history. Starring Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck and Matt Dillon. Directed by Frank Oz. Written by Paul Rudnick. Produced by Scott Rudin. A Paramount release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language. Running time: 90 min. Screened at Toronto fest
Tags: Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck and Matt Dillon. Directed by Frank Oz. Written by Paul Rudnick. Produced by Scott Rudin. A Paramount release. Comedy, media, mannerisms, rumors, self-help, war
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