Who is Cletis Tout? Perhaps the tendency for most people will be to answer this question with another question: “Who cares?” Well apparently Paramount Classics does, as they’ve had this film on the verge of release for quite a while now. Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2001 and slowly being released in specific markets afterward, to call the release of this film staggered would be an understatement. Tout gets off to a rough start, opening with a joke that only makes sense if you’ve seen the movie Deliverance.
It then starts up with its multi-layered plotline, primarily focusing on Trevor Finch (Christian Slater) telling Critical Jim (Tim Allen), a hit man who seems to be about to kill him, how he has been mistaken for a character named Cletis Tout. Critical Jim, being a huge fan of movies and stories, essentially demands that Finch tell the story of how he got himself into this situation, thus setting up the structure of Tout: essentially one long flashback being interrupted sporadically with commentary from Critical Jim and Finch.
Tout is as much about movie conventions as it is about the actual plotline, which doesn’t say a whole lot. Critical Jim is constantly talking about movie conventions – what’s important in movies – and quoting them multiple times. In fact, one of the flaws of the plot is that this character is continuously citing movies that are far better than the one the audience is watching. While the first half almost felt like a chore to watch, the second half of the movie is much better, so if you’re able to make it through the beginning there are some genuinely amusing moments in store for you.
If you’re in the mood for a comedy that doesn’t do a whole lot right or wrong, give Tout a shot.