by Jim McFarlin
ST. LOUIS — Tim Allen has found a new sound to replace the unintelligible, Neanderthal male grunts that propelled him to the '90s sitcom classic Home Improvement and, ultimately, to stardom. It's "doh-de-doh-de-doh."
On the current 10-city standup concert tour to promote his forthcoming movie Crazy on the Outside, in which he stars, makes his directorial debut and served as financier, Allen claims it's the sound you swear airport security guards, post office counter workers and similar service employees are making as they dawdle nonchalantly while wasting your time. Fortunately for the former Detroiter, it's not the sound packed audiences are making while attending screenings of his disarmingly entertaining romantic comedy, which isn't opening nationwide until Jan. 8. Before his campaign brought him home to the Birmingham Palladium last night (Dec. 10), Allen arrived the night before at something called Ronnies 20 Cine outside St. Louis.
Mimicking the marketing approach of documentary makers like fellow Michiganian Michael Moore, who frequently show up in person to introduce their films, Allen is so proud and excited about his first dual role as director-star that he's making his first legitimate standup tour since Home Improvement took off in 1991, armed with more than an hour's worth of new material he's parceling out in 25-minute opening routines before unveiling his cinematic pride and joy. "I do appreciate you coming out, because I know this is kind of a risky thing," he told the crowd. "God knows, this could be Santa Clause 4, you don't know.
"I love movies, and I want you to like it a lot and I want you to tell your friends," the Toy Story co-star said. "And if you don't like it, then it's a Tom Hanks movie."
His opening set was slightly blue and unusually uneven for anyone who remembers Allen in his standup heyday, as he rambled through observations from his new baby daughter, Elizabeth, and President Obama ("the venti mulatto!") to Glenn Beck and antics on the Santa Clause set. But for a man who hasn't strolled a stage with microphone and attitude in hand for nearly two decades and was trying earnestly to mature beyond his tools-cars-grunting comedy adolescence, it was a more than serviceable special event.
You may be pleased to know that Crazy on the Outside is even funnier. The story of an ex-con living with his family after three years in prison who develops a relationship with his female probation officer, the movie won't force Allen to polish an Oscar speech but it is a breezy, upper-tier rom-com with an outstanding cast, including Sigourney Weaver, Ray Liotta, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Julie Bowen, Kelsey Grammer and Detroit native J.K. Simmons, and a solid first effort as director. You also may pleased to know Allen remains true to his roots: Even though the film is set in southern California, all the vehicles are Ford Motor Co. products, and you'll undoubtedly notice the scene where a "Seaholm" T-shirt is prominently displayed.