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Yet another coming-of-age tale, this "Providence" is anything but divine. 

Farrelly Typical

If you're wondering who to blame for the recent proliferation of coming-of-age tales, I hate to disappoint you. They've been around as long as man. No matter how much you might want to point the finger at Margaret Mead, the only one to blame for the latest teen rite-of-passage, "Outside Providence," is Peter Farrelly.

Based on a semi-autobiographical first novel penned by half of the team that brought us such idiot's delights as "Dumb & Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary," "Outside Providence" is nothing like those movies — no matter how much Miramax wants it to be. Or more to the point, no matter how much Miramax markets it as being the follow-up to "Mary." Forget the print ads that label "Providence" as the "outrageous new comedy from the guys who made 'There's Something About Mary.'" To heck with truth in advertising laws, that line is only marginally honest. Yes, Peter Farrelly did write the screenplay, but Michael Corrente ("American Buffalo," "Federal Hill") directed the movie. Farrelly brother Bobby — the co-creator of "Mary" — had nothing to do with "Providence." So if you check out "Providence" expecting another Farrelly fest of damaged dogs, suspect hairstyling products and sexual acts gone awry, you will be grossly disappointed.

While not exactly run-of-the-mill, "Outside Providence" is a competent, frequently funny coming-of-age tale soaked in '70s nostalgia. Which is shorthand for sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. The setting may be Providence, R.I., but the themes are universal: first love, fighting authority, the generation gap.

When the movie opens, it's the summer of 1974 and the hero of our tale, one Timothy "Dildo" Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy), has nothing better to do than spend his days smoking dope and hanging out with friends. But his summer idyll comes to a screeching halt one night, when he gets into an accident with a parked police car. His father (played with blue-collar gusto by Alec Baldwin) is furious. He pulls some strings and sends his son off to Cornwall Academy, a prep school known for academic excellence and discipline.

Cornwall has a nearly endless list of rules — the big three are "no drugs, no alcohol and no sex." Yikes! What's a "stoner" to do? Well, break the rules for starters, and then work really hard not to get caught.

But as these tales are wont to do, ol' Dunphy discovers the error of his ways after he falls in love with campus "unattainable" beauty Jane (Amy Smart from "Varsity Blues," another coming-of-age tale, except set in Texas). When she somehow sees past his obvious bad-boy flaws and returns his love, Dunphy does an attitudinal 180. This ,of course, should come as no surprise, such character reversals are de rigeur for these boy-to-man inner struggle movies.

The movie's — and Peter Farrelly's — biggest flaw is that the hero is less than interesting. And his innate dullness only seems magnified by Hatosy's rather limited acting talent.

Although "Outside Providence" walks that thin line between comedy and drama with surprising agility, it's ultimately for naught. Following the established structure for man-child introspective tales, "Outside Providence" offers little that's new or insightful. Worse though, "Outside Providence" also offers nothing "incite"-ful. No sperm-based mousse. No Cameron Diaz. No body parts caught in zippers. No yippy dogs in full-body casts. In other words, no real reason to pay big bucks.

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