Peter Paige became widely known after several years of portraying Emmett
in the Showtime series
"QUEER AS FOLK." For his feature debut as a screenwriter       
 and director, he has tackled a rather touchy subject -- a gay man who has an
affinity with children. That can and does raise red flags for some people, and
it does for Maggie Butler (Kathy Najimy), a mother who becomes convinced
that the man has an agenda and seeks to stop him.

Set in Portland,
SAY UNCLE centers on artist Paul Johnson (Paige) who
makes a living as a telemarketer. Paul spends a great deal of time with his
godson, two-year old Morgan Faber, so he is devastated when Morgan's mom
Sarah (Lisa Edelstein) informs him that the family is moving to Japan. Paul
doesn't seem to process the information and shows up at the Faber home
mistaking the new owners for the babysitter and her boyfriend. The woman,
Elise (Gabrielle Union), tries to make sense of the matter and actually befriends
Paul. But he spirals downward, losing his job and alienating his work buddy
Russell (Anthony Clark) who harbors a crush on Paul.

Eventually Paul takes to hanging around playgrounds where he befriends
the kids and impresses most of the mothers, until Maggie becomes suspicious.
Realizing that Paul doesn't seem to have a child, she asks probing questions
and doesn't like the answers she receives. Convinced he is a pedophile, Maggie
launches a campaign to stop Paul, to the point where she makes false
accusations of molestation.

Clearly Paige wants to say something about how some people perceive
gay men and their interactions with children, but the film doesn't quite
achieve what he seems to want. His character is rather dense and instead of
being childlike, he appears to suffer from some sort of mental deficiency.
He refuses to listen to anyone, particularly Russell who sees the flaws in his
plans. He's not the villain painted by Najimy's Maggie, but he's not exactly
innocent in his undoing either. The surprise "twist" near the end doesn't really
explain him well psychologically either. Najimy has to play the heavy in the
movie and she does a creditable job as a woman who allows her own
prejudices to overcome her better judgment.

The film perhaps could have used another draft or two to iron out
some of the plot difficulties. Paige shows a facility with his fellow actors,
although his direction veers from bland to mildly interesting.

I had hoped that
SAY UNCLE would live up to its provocative premise,
but it doesn't quite achieve its goals. For a first film, it's passable.

                       Rating:               C
                       MPAA Rating:       R for some language
                       Running time:      91 mins.
Say Uncle
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.