Published April 1, 1998
My Giant directed by Michael Lehmann is yet another depressingly heart-warming tale from Billy Crystal, who is second in the heart-warming league only to his friend and co-star in the relentlessly heartwarming Father’s Day, Robin Williams. Someone once said that all comedy is cruel, but Billy Crystal is living proof that this is not true. Or perhaps it was just the funny kind of comedy that was cruel. Anyway, My Giant is neither cruel nor funny but the kind of toothless comedy that Hollywood loves, especially when it is directed at itself. And it is, in a manner of speaking, directed at itself here. Mr Crystal plays Sammy Kamen, a Hollywood agent with but one client, a bratty teen star who fires him as the picture is opening. Having overheard on the set of the movie, which is shooting in Rumania, that the director is looking for a “big scary guy,” Sammy thinks his ship has come in when he is rescued from drowning in his car by a seven and a half foot local called Max (Gheorghe Muresan).
Max, though scary enough in appearance, is naturally a just a big lovable lug in reality. He quotes Shakespeare, very badly, and asks Sammy to read Shakespeare sonnets to him at bedtime. “Usually you read bedtime stories about a giant,” Sammy reflects. “I’m reading them to a giant.” I get very annoyed when Shakespeare is used like this: to give a cachet of intellectuality to somebody who obviously doesn’t understand the first thing about the lines he is mouthing. The acting ability of Mr Muresan, a basketball player (when he is not injured) for the Washington Wizards, is obviously better suited to the great gross-out scene where he vomits all over Sammy’s bratty ex-client in a disgusting torrent.
The lovable giant pines after his sweetheart, Liliana, in “Galoop”—which turns out to be Gallup, New Mexico—who gave him an unforgettable kiss when he was thirteen and then emigrated to America. This was before Max started growing uncontrollably. Sammy sees his chance to persuade an unpersuasively reluctant Max to star in the movie—so that he can get to America and find Liliana. Complicating matters is the fact that Liliana, when found, wants nothing to do with Max. Moreover Sammy is broke, estranged from his wife (Kathleen Quinlan) and guiltily trying to win the affection of his son, Nick (Zane Carney). Everything depends on his getting Steven Segal (as himself) to put Max in his new movie.
The rest you can guess easily enough from the obvious fact that the picture is meant to give us that old-fashioned sentimental lift. Max is said to be dying of a heart condition. “I want to do what’s best for my giant,” says a newly-made decent and conscientious Sammy, and so, as his agent, turns down stardom and a three picture deal that would have made him rich. Yeah, right. Then he takes Max home to Rumania and makes him reconcile with his estranged parents (“My mother had a saying: never go to sleep angry”). And, as if that were not enough schmaltz for you, there is a final codicil about how he, Sammy, is now “a giant to my family.” By this point you may be tempted to emulate Max’s one great movie scene—with which, oddly enough, the film ends, though it cuts away just before the cascade of vomit descends on the brat. “You’re a genius!” says the director to Max when he sees this. Billy Crystal, however, is something less than that.