Who is Cletis Tout? -- ** (out of 5)   (2001)

Cast: Christian Slater, Tim Allen, Portia de Rossi, Richard Dreyfuss, Billy Connelly

Directed By Chris Ver Wiel

The more I see the clones of PULP FICTION, the more I appreciate how great Quentin Tarantino's vision was.  WHO IS CLETIS TOUT? borrows liberally from it, casting a mix of character actors and once big names, tossing in lots of comedy and action, and kooky characters in bizarre situations.  As closely as it might follow the blueprint, what CLETIS lacks is a transcendent quality.  What it lacks is inspiration and a soul.

I admit that Christian Slater has never been one of my favorite actors, given his limited range and inability to not look and act like Jack Nicholson at all times.  However, CLETIS TOUT would seem like a role he could handle, as Trevor, an escaped con with a knack for mischief, who looks for the hidden diamonds hidden by his escapist partner, Micah (Dreyfuss).  THe two phony up some identities taken from a couple of deceased lowlifes, one of them being the real Cletis Tout, and soon Trevor fins he is fighting for his life after being mistaken for the real man.  When Micah gets iced, Trevor and Micah's looker daughter, Tess go searching for the box containing the long dormant gems, while the cops and Tout's enemies are hot on their tails. 

The story is told in a flashback format, similar to THE USUAL SUSPECTS, of which this film's title might remind you a little of.  Forget any other comparisons, as CLETIS TOUT is about as unfunny in its comedy and unexciting in its action as any movie that tries to deliver the two so much.

Written and directed by Chris Ver Wiel, the film's only real asset is its eccentricities, tossing in wild characters by Billy Connelly and RuPaul to try to spark some life into the fairly limp script.  Try as everyone might, there's just nothing really to work with except some ridiculous contrivances and a superficial storyline that I doubt anyone really cares about past the jailbreak sequence.

Unless you have a jones for bad crime capers with kooky characters, I would have a hard time recommending WHO IS CLETIS TOUT? to anyone else.  While PULP FICTION resurrected John Travolta's career back into Oscar-worthy glory, the same will not happen for Christian Slater.  Considering how bad many of the movies he starred in were while he was at his peak, I'm not disappointed at his current obscurity in the slightest.

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