Freshman helmer Amy Talkington’s frantic comedy “Night of the White Pants,” about a dysfunctional family, sends dad careening through Dallas and into punk culture for a wild night on the town. Despite a fine comedic turn by Tom Wilkinson as a good ol’ boy millionaire, pic’s too-tall character arcs don’t give the players room to breathe. Interactions feel pre-scripted, and coincidences lack the grace of serendipity or the breakneck pace of farce. Name cast may snag short theatrical release before cable stint.
Having barely survived a heart attack, a failing business and an acrimonious divorce, Max Hagan (Wilkinson) sits down to dinner with his brood: severely handicapped sister Lolly (Geri Jewell), perpetually stoned son Millian (Fran Kranz), over-achieving daughter Beth (Selma Blair) and her punk rocker/computer program-designer boyfriend Raff (Nick Stahl). Millian reveals that Raff is his drug dealer when Max’s soon-to-be ex-trophy wife (Janine Turner) shows up with a bullhorn and two deputies to throw everyone out of the house.
Stranded, Max tags along with freewheeling Raff and experiences the punk scene, including coke-snorting sessions and the amorous attentions of a party girl Felicia (Laura Jordan).
As Max progressively spins out of control, Raff becomes more of a straight-arrow entrepreneur. Pat ending sets the stage for the pic’s rediscovery of family values.
Cast of relatively traditional actors cannot breathe much individuality into Talkington’s overly schematic script. Jewell’s role as the wheelchair-bound conscience of the household plays as somewhat simplistic. Max’s crash course in letting go is predictable, and even the dazzling Wilkinson is unable to compensate for the script’s basic lack of imagination. Stahl, as Raff, is likewise bound by plot conventions to a sheepish amiability. Blair succeeds in bringing a certain harried sweetness to her character’s workaholic perfectionism, while Francis Fisher, in a relatively minor role, glows with wry understanding.
Jim Denault’s DV-lensing paints the town in lurid hues. Samplings from the local punk scene by helmer Talkington (herself a sometime-music critic) are dead on.