Monday, March 9, 2009

Movie Monday No. 8 - Big Trouble

Well, two weeks in a row for the month of March, people! Let's keep this streak going with a review of the Barry Sonnenfeld comedy, Big Trouble, which I picked up at Tom's Music Trade here in Red Lion, PA for four bucks. Wondering what store I'm talking about? Read on and find out for yourself!


"This is Miami? They can keep it."
--Dennis Farina as Ness, Big Trouble

Cue the Cheers theme song, people, ‘cause I’m going to jabber on about one of my favorite places to go. No, it isn’t La-La Land; I can go there any time I want (and some people claim I live there daily, which I’m not conceding or denying). It’s a trade store located on North Main Street in the town I live in, Red Lion, Pennsylvania, called Tom’s Music Trade, and it’s the best place to find anything you’re looking for.

Feeling a bit blue last Wednesday, I went to Tom’s (it’s, like, five minutes from my apartment) and traded in some older DVDs I had and acquired some new ones for my collection. Tom, the owner, is a British guy who hasn’t lost his accent yet, likes watching UFC fights on his laptop by the cash register, and never seems to be in a sour mood, no matter what the weather may be like outside. When I visited his store on Wednesday, I told him about my blog, and that I’d mention his store in it someday.

Well, that time has come, since on my visit there I picked up the 2001 Touchstone Pictures comedy Big Trouble, based on Pulitzer-prize winning humorist Dave Barry’s first novel. I’ve never read the novel, but there were definite "Barry-isms" carried over from the book to the script, which is always a good sign that the writers actually cared about the material (and it wasn’t just another paycheck to them).

This film begins with Jason Lee playing a hippie addicted to Fritos named Puggy. Everyone keeps mistaking him for Jesus because of his long hair and goatee, which I thought was actually kind-of funny. The movie begins full-force with Tim Allen playing Elliot Arnold, a former columnist who quit his job after having a meltdown at his former boss who tried to assign him ‘serious’ work. If this isn’t a Barry-ism, then I don’t know what is.

The story in this film follows Arnold as his son, Matthew, attempts to go to a female classmate’s house and squirt-gun her so he can "score points" for a game played in school. Simultaneously, Dennis Farina arrives in town and at this girl’s house to kill her father, who has been skimming money from his company. The company had ordered him dead, and Farina and his partner, who always responds with the same line -- "You said it" -- end up botching the job when Elliot’s son Matthew enters the scene and tries to ‘kill’ the poor girl with his squirt gun.

When the girl’s mother (Rene Russo) and Matthew’s father Elliot meet for the first time, there’s some chemistry that can’t be denied...and when she stops by Elliot’s office the next day, they end up doing this hilarious sex scene where Elliot is trying to kiss her, take her clothes off, balance himself, and keep from spilling a cup of coffee, all to a Mexican samba in the background. This had me rolling, and that was a very good sign.

The girl’s father (Stanley Tucci) acquires a nuclear bomb from some Russian arms dealers who use a crappy bar as a front for their operation. That’s when two knuckleheads, led by Tom Sizemore, storm the bar to rob it, but instead take the nuclear device and the so-called "drug kingpin in the fag Jag" back to his house, where Elliot, his son, and the "kingpin’s" daughter and wife have arrived after finding out that another one of these squirting games has gone on, and end up getting tangled up in the heist with the nuclear device (that everyone keeps remarking looks like a garbage disposal).

If the comedy in this doesn’t keep you watching the movie, this is the point where it kicks into high gear and everything gets cranked up ten notches. I won’t ruin it for you -- you have to see it for yourself as every character gets what’s coming to them, and then some.

A movie would be nothing without its script, and this movie had a great one. The direction by Barry Sonnenfeld, who also directed Get Shorty and Men In Black before this film, was top-notch. There weren’t what I call frat-boy shots in it -- shots down women’s dresses, extreme close-ups of breasts and ass -- you get what I mean. It was a very clean movie in terms of that. The acting was top-notch, but that’s what happens when you have comedy greats like Stanley Tucci, Jason Lee, Rene Russo, and of course Tim Allen working with material from Dave Barry -- you’re bound to have something funny.

The music for this film was great as well, performed by James Newton Howard, who gets very little recognition for his work. The jazzy themes he came up with for Big Trouble matched the film perfectly, and even in the suspenseful last minutes, the score lived up to the action on the screen. Industrial Light and Magic even did some great plane effects here that still hold up well.

Overall, Big Trouble is simply a tightly-plotted and very funny movie, and I haven’t even mentioned half of what goes on. I’m saving it for you, the viewer, to find out when you watch it, because this is one movie I’d recommend to just about anybody, even my grandmother (if you’re reading this Grammy, go rent Big Trouble before the day’s through). If you’re looking for big laughs with a great cast that will not disappoint, then Big Trouble is the movie for you. And if you don’t laugh even once, then you are not human.

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