`Running' Amok

The showy but sloppy `Running With Scissors' lacks author Augusten Burroughs' pinpoint control

Review C+

October 27, 2006|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

In the movie version of Augusten Burroughs' memoir, Running With Scissors, the writer-producer-director, Ryan Murphy, best-known for creating FX's Nip/Tuck, uses a cascade of goofy-creepy episodes from Burroughs' early life for gross-out comedy and psychodrama and even grosser sentimentality. It's a clever variation on you'll laugh, you'll cry entertainment - here, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll gag. But it's a bit too much like a TV series: That '70s Show becomes "That '70s Freakshow."

Murphy follows the vulnerable, refreshingly resilient Augusten (Joseph Cross) as he makes a broken-field run toward maturity, slithering past the clutches of his deluded minor-poet mother Deirdre (Annette Bening) and his distant math professor father Norman (Alec Baldwin). The real trap is the uncertified loony bin where his mom dumps him after her divorce: the home of his mother's unorthodox, unethical and increasingly addled shrink, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox). When the Finch family members don't simply orbit around this wickedly patriarchal doctor, they make decisions by "Bible-dipping" - picking a good word from the Good Book at random. ("It was like asking a Magic Eight Ball a question, only you were asking God," Burroughs writes.) By the end of the movie, Dr. Finch starts reading his family's fate from the contents of his toilet bowl.

Running with Scissors (Tri-Star) Starring Joseph Cross, Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Alec Baldwin. Directed by Ryan Murphy. Rated R. Time 122 minutes.

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