|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 29 September 1998|
Let us begin here with a note about film critics. Our profession dictates that we have fairly extensive vocabularies; we should not have to resort to name-calling. However, sometimes only a word like "lame" will do.
My Giant' is a sentimental buddy story with some genuinely funny moments. However, in attempting to depict the redemption of a formerly exploitative protagonist, director Michael Lehmann, screenwriter David Seltzer and star Billy Crystal (who co-authored the story with Seltzer) ask their audience to side with this guy a little too much; leaving their audience feeling more discomfited than entertained.
Crystal plays Sammy, an unhappy New York talent agent, whose wife (Kathleen Quinlan) has just packed up their son and left town due to his neglect. Still putting business ahead of family, Sammy travels to Romania in an attempt to woo back his one successful client. Sammy fails in this endeavor, but he does encounter the 7'7" Max (Gheorghe Muresan, who in real life has a day job as basketball player), a sheltered but brilliant local who has been raised by monks. Sammy's brilliant idea is to bring Max back to the U.S. and get him to play the villain in the next Steven Seagal flick. Max doesn't care about stardom, but he agrees to the trip in the hopes of reuniting with his boyhood crush Lilliana (Joanna Pacula), who has relocated to New Mexico.
The best reason to watch 'My Giant' is the great charm of Muresan, who has an instantly endearing combination of innocence, dignity and sincerity, along with an extremely striking physical appearance. The filmmakers are also on sure and amusing ground in the early sequences dealing with the making of a low-budget epic in Europe. Lehmann and cinematographer Michael Coulter create a telling contrast between the fairytale-looking monastery where Max dwells and the slightly off-kilter faux medieval look of the sword-and-sorcery cheapie he performs in. There is also a wall-calendar-beautiful landscape (complete with sunset) that commences Chapter 9.
However, once Sammy and Max hit New York, it goes downhill. The filmmakers on the one hand condemn those who think of Max as a "freak" due to his uncommon size, yet 'My Giant' itself treats the character as something other than a grown man. Yes, Sammy is a born exploiter, but it takes a degree of naivete not commonly found in adults for Max to go along with his schemes as far as he does. 'My Giant' tries to have it both ways, presenting Max as a lover of Shakespeare while also giving us a low-rent retread of 'Of Mice and Men.' By the finale, when it's made clear that the whole point of the story is the effect Max had on Sammy, we get the feeling that the character is considered more of a prop or a plot point than a human being. As the apparent thrust of 'My Giant' is for Sammy to relearn how to treat others as though they are real people, the schism between intent and effect is disconcerting, to say the least. Worse, long before it ends, it ceases to be either humorous or entertaining.