This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
The brothers Farrelly, Peter and Bobby, have had stupendous success with their comedies "Dumb And Dumber'' and "There's Something About Mary.'' So much success they have the clout to get a project made just because they want to make it. Their wish is Miramax's command--which suggests a valuable exhortation: be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.
This is a coming-of-age movie, set in the 1970s, about a working-class kid from Pawtucket, R.I., who gets in trouble and then, because his dad's mob friend knows a judge, gets sent to a private academy for his last year of high school. Here he's a fish out of water (instead of luggage, he arrives with his clothing in a plastic garbage bag). But soon he's dating the most popular girl in school, getting into and out of trouble, learning life's lessons, and having the kinds of experiences people must really actually have, since so many movies have been made about them.
If it had been well-made, "Outside Providence'' might have overcome its genre and amounted to something. Alas, it is badly written and severely miscast; Alec Baldwin, as a working-class stiff with a Rhode Island accent, sweats over every syllable. Its construction is so amateurish that a basic character change (the hero stops screwing around and starts studying) is blown off with a film-school montage (reads books, gets approving nod from teacher, etc.). And the school faculty contains nothing but archetypes (a befuddled Mr. Chips, a vindictive martinet).
The movie was directed by Michael Corrente and written by Corrente and the Farrellys, based on a novel by Peter Farrelly. Corrente can direct (I liked his 1995 film "Federal Hill,'' set in Providence), but this time he has an underdone screenplay and compensates by pushing too hard. What are we to make of a scene where the characters are smoking dope in a car, and an exterior shot shows the car trailing so much smoke it looks on fire? In Cheech and Chong, yes. In the real world, no. I could also have done without the little brother in the wheelchair, and the three-legged family dog with an eye patch. The kid brother would have been OK if he'd been better developed as a character, not just window dressing and a setup for one-liners ("we were playing touch football and he fell off the roof'').