Say Uncle’s most interesting touch is its title: a reference to a schoolyard game in which children yell out “uncle” after the physical strain applied to their body by a friend or bully reaches a grueling breaking point. Director Peter Paige connects the laws of this game to real-word socio-political turmoil when a mother, Maggie Butler (Kathy Najimy), launches a maniac’s crusade against a gay artist, Paul Johnson (Paige), because of his ostensibly unnatural fixation on children. It is perhaps to Paige’s credit that the audience never fully sides with either one: Her lies are unjustified (in order to provoke police action, she accuses Paul of abusing a little girl), but one need not be a parent to see that Paul’s relationship to children is unhealthy. Still, the film gets at nothing because Paige makes the mistake of arguing a thorny case from the same juvenile perspective of his colossally self-absorbed character, whose thwarted farewell present to the parents of his godson is a painting of himself huddled in the fetal position. This might have been a unique stance if everyone in the film didn’t seemingly share Paul’s embryonic state of mind: When Gabrielle Union’s Elise advises Paige’s overgrown baby against fighting Maggie because, “Where I come from we don’t mess with a lynch mob,” the audience must ponder what fantasy world she could possibly hail from where such mutineer groups are common—then you realize Paige is likely confusing the politics of the modern gay rights movement with that of the civil rights era. The film is almost preferable without the context provided by a ludicrous last-act revelation, which not only explains why Paul hangs out at donut shops, makes horrible art, and responds to children so aggressively, but also attempts to validate Paige’s one-chromosomal aesthetic, which suggests a marketing campaign for prescription medication. Poor Paige inspires sympathy: Working on Queer as Folk could not have been healthy for anyone, and the heinous Showtime program’s pull is felt in Say Uncle’s cartoon provocation. One hopes Paige, like his on-screen doppelganger, gets the help he needs to heal his damaged personal aesthetic.
The print is almost spotless, with vibrant colors and accurate skin tones, and the sound, though only available in 2.0 stereo, never acts up like the story.
Peter Paige’s commentary track is almost as embarrassing as the film. Given the umpteenth opportunities he has to seriously discuss the political dimensions of the story, he chooses instead to talk about how nicely lit his actors are and how hippety-hops are not designed for adults to bounce on. Equally of little value is a behind-the-scenes featurette, storyboards, and trailers for Adam and Steve, Eighteen, and Another Gay Movie.
I did after five minutes, and so will you.