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Tiptoes (July 26/04)

What a strange, bizarre little movie (no pun intended). Tiptoes stars Gary Oldman as a dwarf (!) named Rolfe, while Matthew McConaughey plays his twin brother Steven. The film is essentially plotless, with Steven struggling to come to terms with the revelation that his girlfriend Carol (Kate Beckinsale) is pregnant (meaning there's a good chance their child will be born a dwarf). And though the movie occasionally seems to be trying a little too hard to come off as quirky, the exceptionally strong performances more than make up for the deficiencies in Bill Weiner's script.

Comparisons to The Station Agent are inevitable, particularly since Peter Dinklage has a small role here as an obnoxious French buddy of Rolfe's. However, about the only thing the two films have in common - besides Dinklage's presence - is a focus on dwarves, though The Station Agent doesn't dwell on that the way Tiptoes does. Perhaps in an effort to ensure the film doesn't come off as insensitive, Weiner's script occasionally goes overboard with the pro-Dwarf stuff. As a result, there are several instances in which the film feels like a PSA for Dwarfism.

Yet the film never quite becomes as bad as it sounds, primarily thanks to the expectedly stellar performances. Oldman, mustachioed and wearing thick glasses, is surprisingly effective playing a dwarf - though we never quite forget that it is, in fact, Gary Oldman hidden under the make-up and special effects. Still, few actors would be able to pull off such a role without inviting derision, and Oldman does a nice job of turning Rolfe into a believable character.

Likewise, McConaughey and Beckinsale make a convincing couple, though some of Steven's decisions are a little hard to swallow (particularly as the film's conclusion approaches). Director Matthew Bright seems to be going for a spontaneous, improvised sort of vibe, using takes that aren't necessarily perfect - a choice that doesn't entirely work. Presumably intended to lend the film an off-the-cuff feel, the decision instead contributes to an aura of sloppiness.

Tiptoes is essentially the definition of an uneven film - it can be quite enjoyable when it's working, but melodramatic when it's not - but the performances (particularly Dinklage's, who is easily the highlight of the film) ensure that it's always entertaining.

out of

About the DVD: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment presents Tiptoes with a vibrant letterboxed transfer, along with several bonus trailers (for 3 Way, Good Bye, Lenin!, Levity, Underworld, and Young Adam).
© David Nusair