Few acting enterprises are more difficult—or more rife with pitfalls—than embodying a mentally challenged character, and Troy Garity proves himself ill-equipped to the challenge as Albert, the cognitively slow protagonist of Allan Mindel’s amateurish Milwaukee, Minnesota. Albert is a champion ice fisherman because he can “hear” the fish speaking to him from under the ice, and his acute listening skills are also a vital component of his relationship with mom Edna (Debra Monk), an abusive and controlling figure who discourages her son from engaging in “independent thinking” and uses cruel threats of abandonment to obtain filial obedience. After his mother’s untimely death, and because of his hefty winnings, mystical idiot Albert becomes an attractive target for two competing grifter factions: Randy Quaid’s ruddy-faced Jerry James, a slimy salesman claiming to be Albert’s dead father, and brother and sister duo Stan (Hank Harris) and Tuey (Alison Folland), who plans to use her sexual wiles (and a cockamamie identity as a Time magazine reporter) to swindle the fish listener out of his hard-earned cash. Even if it weren’t scripted as a soggy tribute to the noble naïveté of this innocent moron, Mindel’s film—its title a reference to the insignificance of its sleepy, frigid Wisconsin setting—would still be a blundering debacle full of barely conceived characters (including Bruce Dern’s copy shop owner Mr. McNally, whose secret identity is so obvious it hurts), incessant use of mirrors as a visual device, excruciating narration delivered by Garity in a soft, simple-minded cadence, and mortifying dialogue (such as when Albert says of dearly departed mom, “She’s like da fishes now. Under da ice and snow”). Garity mercifully refrains from the tic-heavy mannerisms of Sean Penn in I Am Sam or the cute quirkiness of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, but his Albert, with a confused, beatific smile regularly affixed to his face, is nonetheless depicted as a man-child whose intellectual dullness is a sign of saintliness. Though, with the minor exception of Jerry and Tuey, recognizing each other’s designs on Albert’s money, smiling wickedly through a dinner together—as well as an amusing cameo by Josh Brolin as a transvestite’s g-string-wearing bodyguard—it’s Milwaukee, Minnesota that turns out to be, as Tuey might put it, mildly “retarded.”
The only thing that's particularly good about Milwaukee, Minnesota is its grungy cinematography and this transfer preserves its strung-out colors, even if blacks leave a little bit to be desired. On the audio front, there are no less than three mixes to choose from. I'm not exactly sure the film necessitated a DTS track, but if you have the appropriate system, you'll want to opt for this particular mix since it does wonders with the score by Michael Convertino and Robert Muzingo.
If you ever wanted to know what might happen if Forrest Gump and Al Franken's Stuart character from SNL met in person, take a listen to the commentary track by Troy Garity and director Allan Mindel. (No real insights here except for Mindel's revelation that he loves the films of Paul Morrissey and one scene in the film was intended as a tribute to Trash and Holly Woodlawn.) Also included here are a bunch of theatrical trailers and a video interview with Mindel, who drops more names during his unnecessarily long answer to the first question than Tommy Hilfiger did throughout the entirely of his failed reality show The Cut.
If you have any sense, you'll rent and savor Trash instead.