Comedies of physical mismatch depend heavily on the dignity of even odds. Abrasive, micro-size Danny DeVito pitted against a domesticated, macro-size Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins is funny because DeVito makes up in noise what he lacks in verticality. Lanky Kramer fighting with his diminutive friend Mickey on Seinfeld is hilarious because both men are so steadfastly, nuttily oblivious to their exaggerated height disparity.
Tip the balance, though, and you end up with My Giant (Columbia), a feel-bad comedy in which the ick-making joke is that Sammy, an aggressive and desperate Hollywood agent (Billy Crystal) with a foundering marriage and money troubles, opportunistically reps Max, a lonely and sensitive Romanian colossus (Gheorghe Muresan) who’s pining for a girl he loved 22 years ago. Worse, the giant turns out to have medical problems, as most older giants do. And I ask you, is this to laugh?
The position of wise-cracking, Jewish city slicker with a soul not beyond reclamation is a Crystal specialty — the perfect psychological profile to host the Oscars or emcee a telethon. But here, the actor (who also produced the film and devised the story with screenwriter David Seltzer) slips and falls early on into a swamp of bathos (we’re talking Jack Lemmon territory), from which he never recovers: Desperate to show that Sammy has a heart, however rusted, Crystal mugs shamelessly (abetted by director Michael Lehmann, who regulated the comedy-to-therapy thermostat much better in The Truth About Cats & Dogs). Limpid-eyed, 7’7” Muresan, meanwhile, towers patiently, a tree of a man planted in the wrong bog. How wrong? The few weak laughs come from Steven Seagal, of all punchlines, playing himself with deeply welcome postmodern irony. D+