Tiptoes is a strange film. Seemingly it never had a cinematic release and went straight to video. My friend’s copy was originally a freebie with the Daily Mail (no, he doesn’t read the Daily Mail, he bought it on ebay). Featuring major actors like Matthew McConaughey, Kate Beckinsale, and Gary Oldman, and covering politically-correct subject matter, you can kind of see what they were aiming for, but the film is let down by a myriad of problems: particularly a dreadful script and some really weird pacing. The film provides a good deal of unintentional comedy, landing itself in the ‘so bad it’s good’ category, but overall there’s less to like here than with the classics of that genre.
Released in 2003, Tiptoes is a film about dwarfs, set in contemporary America. The film has a sort of moralizing, patronizing tone that suggests the filmmakers thought the general public could use some sensitivity training. McConaughey plays a character called Steven, who is the one ‘normal’ person in a family of ‘little people’. Steven has concealed his background from his fiancee Carol, played by Beckinsale, and an unplanned pregnancy provides the main plot point of the film. See, although Steven is not a dwarf there is a 50/50 chance their child will be, and the plot revolves around how the couple deal with that. Steven has a twin brother, Rolfe (Oldman), who is a dwarf and who, if we’re generous to him, becomes a shoulder to cry on for Carol as Steven’s emotional issues start to get the better of him. Another way of looking at it would be that Rolfe exploits some emotionally vulnerable and guilt-ridden people to try and get inside Carol’s pants.
The trailer plays up Oldman’s turn as a dwarf as ‘the role of a lifetime’ and in a way it is, though not in the way they intended. He wears some prosthetics on his face and a hump on his back and spends the film shuffling around on his knees trying to pass as a dwarf. The bizarre thing is that the film is full of actual dwarf actors, so why they gave the main dwarf role to a non-dwarf actor is a bit of a mystery. The film even has Peter Dinklage, playing a boorish, pseudo-Marxist misogynist, who for some reason is French; he has some connection to Rolfe which is never explained. Dinklage’s character is sleeping with a sort of airhead hippy played by Patricia Arquette. This character feels like she’s supposed to be about 20, but Arquette looks at least twice that age here, and is not helped by the really awful clothes they make her wear. Her character is incensed at one point when a motel owner takes her for a prostitute, but that is indeed what she looks like.
Arquette’s wardrobe is nothing compared to Beckinsale’s, though. She wears some truly shocking pieces of late 90s fashion, including wearing pyjamas in public and a gruesome sort of blouse/camo pants combination, as well as a backless dress and dog collar to a formal dinner with her parents. Jesus Christ. I never realized before this film just how bad an actress Beckinsale is, though some of it may be due to exasperation over the script. What are you supposed to do with lines like “So you had a circle jerk with a bunch of little people? I would love to see that!” Other gems include Arquette proclaiming that the sphincter is the strongest muscle in the body. The day I see people exercising their sphincters at the gym is the day I stop going.
Tiptoes was made before McConaughey’s reinvention as a serious actor, but even so he does what he can, and aside from one godawful bit of dancing he probably emerges with the most credit here. The film suffers from odd pacing and editing and features one of the most abrupt and jarring endings I’ve ever seen.
This is the trailer that inspired us to check the film out. If you’re a fan of bad movies and cinematic curiosities, Tiptoes is worth checking out.
2/10 (bad movie rating 7/10)