A Tiger’s Tale is a really weird comedy of rural life, full of twangy, ear-catching dialogue and arch performances. It was produced, written and directed by Peter Douglas, another of Kirk’s sons.
Douglas seems to be shooting for something like the offbeat country comedy of a movie like Jonathan Demme’s Handle With Care, which somehow blends an honest affection for rural characters with a hipness that isn’t condescending. That’s not an easy blend, and Douglas doesn’t really come close to getting it right.
It’s all about a 19-year-old kid (C. Thomas Howell) who falls in love with his ex-girlfriend’s mother, played by Ann-Margret. The summer before he goes away to college, they have an affair, which consists of undressing each other a lot and running through fields at night.
The whole movie is played in a surprisingly light tone, even when the inevitable Big Crisis arrives in the form of pregnancy. The movie is so relentlessly chirpy that nobody ever seems to worry about anything.
This becomes damned irritating after a while. Worse than that, the boy keeps a pet tiger, and this big cat is dreadfully symbolic of the rite of passage that the film describes. (The tiger and Ann-Margret have the same color hair, you’ll notice.) The tiger’s finest moment comes when it swats lethally at a small dog, the film’s only effec tive bit of black comedy.
Most of the cast members, such as Charles Durning and Ann Wedgeworth, hang around without doing very much. Kelly Preston is cute as usual as the ex-girlfriend, but Howell and Ann-Margret are not on the same wavelength. The Texas accents disappear so regularly that I began to suspect it might be part of the joke.
The dialogue is of the overwritten hayseed variety, as in Howell’s description of his devotion to his mature friend: “I am stuck on this woman like her hair!” It’s Ann-Margret, however, who has the movie’s most unbelievable line, when she asks the pesky Howell, “Why do you have such an interest in my anatomy?” Please, no comments from the peanut gallery.
First published in the Herald, February 1988
Another one of these: Does anyone know this movie? It was the only directed film from Douglas, who also produced some things. IMDb says Kirk Douglas shows up as an extra, for what that’s worth. For C. Thomas Howell, after the notorious Soul Man, this one helped end his hot streak (but wow, he has over 200 credits since then, so the man really likes to work).