Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Movie Review: Big Trouble (2002)


A madcap comedy, Big Trouble overloads the screen with wild characters and ridiculous events hurtling at an insane pace. A lot of it does generate big laughs, but the entertainment remains breathlessly shallow.

In Miami, former journalist Eliot Arnold (Tim Allen) runs a one-man advertising business. Eliot's teenaged son Matt (Ben Foster) attempts to drench classmate Jenny Herk (Zooey Deschanel) with a water gun, but instead interferes with the real attempted assassination of Jenny's father Arthur (Stanley Tucci) by hitmen Henry (Dennis Farina) and Leonard (Jack Kehler). Miami cops Monica (Janeane Garofalo) and Walter (Patrick Warburton) try to sort out the mess, while Eliot is immediately attracted to Anna (Rene Russo), Arthur's long suffering wife.

The events of the night result in wandering free spirit Puggy (Jason Lee), who likes to live in trees, meeting Arthur's housekeeper Nina (Sofia Vergara), and the two develop an immediate attraction.

Arthur is embezzling funds from a mobster-linked organization, and to seek revenge on his would-be killers he attempts to purchase a mysterious weapon in a steel case from Russian criminals. But his plans are foiled by Snake (Tom Sizemore) and Eddie (Johnny Knoxville), two sleazeball incompetent petty thieves. FBI agents Pat Greer (Heavy D) and Alan Seitz (Omar Epps) are trying to recover the missing weapon, resulting in a frenzied chase across Miami.

There is no doubt that Big Trouble contains some big laughs. Director Barry Sonnenfeld adapts the Dave Barry book of the same name with an eye to achieving a nutty spectacle at a breakneck pace, and often hits his targets within a compact 85 minutes of pure insanity.

Despite the numerous characters and events, Sonnenfeld manages to keep a hold of the material and generates a steady stream of laughs, quickly moving away from any sense of normal and into the realm of the absurd where anything goes. The scenes involving the Russian arms traders pretending to be seedy bar operators tend to work best, and the hitman character of Henry gets the sharpest lines and some funny gems.

The hapless duo of Snake and Eddie are effective as victims of Darwinian certainty surely awaiting their hour of extinction. Meanwhile a herd of goats makes a late appearance and gets right into the action, as does a mall cop, Eliot's cigar-chomping client and the Herk family dog.

Less effective is the airy subplot involving the ethereal Puggy being lifted along with events, while Nina is the most notable victim of the overstuffed script. Tim Allen is supposed to be in the middle of the mess but only achieves middling success, his suburban doofus Dad persona not quite finding a home in the edgy material. Stanley Tucci goes the other way with his over-the-top bagman, cussing up a storm.

Ultimately what Big Trouble lacks is any sense of genuine soul or caring. The film is about a large number of people running around engaged in cartoon-like behaviour and stirring up crazy funny antics; none of them come close to being real characters worth knowing or caring about. Big Trouble is really funny while it lasts, but has big trouble leaving a lasting impression.


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