"Wackiness" Is Not a Premise 

Running with Scissors: Not So Dangerous

In his 2002 memoir Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs chronicled his wildly fucked-up childhood living in the home of his pillhead mother's shrink. (The veracity of Burroughs' story has since been called into question, and the book is now sold with a disclaimer that while most of the events are factual, "others were expanded and changed.") It's the kind of story that begs to be made into a movie—until you remember that an ensemble cast of "kooky" characters is hardly a premise for a film.

Young Augusten's (Joseph Cross) mother (played with relish by Annette Bening) was never quite mother-of-the-year material to begin with. But during Augusten's adolescence, her mental health evaporated and she became hooked on Valium. Being a mom didn't jive with her delusions of grandeur or her self-medicated waking coma, so she did what any good mom would do: She sent her son to live with her psychiatrist's family, who are crazier than a bunch of retarded trolls on angel dust.

Dr. Finch (Brian Cox) is a compulsive masturbator who sun-dries his own turds for the family to worship. The doctor's wife (Jill Clayburgh) sits zombified in front of the TV all day, eating dog food. Daughter Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow) does one better and cooks the family cat in a stew. And so the hijinks go, ad infinitum.

Running is content to rest on its "Aren't these guys ka-razy?" premise, and director Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck) can't decide whether to play it for high drama, sheer slapstick, or as an extended music video for his AM Gold eight-track collection. The result is that the characters all come off as cartoonish buffoons, and the only thing one can take away from the film is a reminder that if you raise a kid in a house where people fish turds out of the toilet and eat Kibbles 'n Bits for dinner, said kid could grow up to be a famous writer with a slippery grasp on the concept of truth.

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