Big Trouble

Big Trouble was set for release just before September 11, but its subplot involving getting a bomb past airport security and onto a plane proved too touchy for movie studios. That was okay, since, from trailer, the movie looked absolutely horrible. So maybe it is with extremely low expectations that the end product is bearable, and even passably funny at times. Big Trouble, based on the novel by Dave Barry, is an almost screwball comedy with a mammoth cast of talented actors, most of which do not have much to do. Because Barry Sonnenfeld (Wild Wild West, Get Shorty) is the director, Big Trouble is sure to draw comparisons to Get Shorty, an eminently better film with a similar silly tone. The narrator is Eliot Arnold, an ex-columnist for a Miami newspaper. Arnold (Tim Allen, Joe Somebody, Galaxy Quest) now runs his own advertising business. Arnold's son Matt (Ben Foster, Get Over It, Liberty Heights) is playing a school game called "murder," where the object is to "kill" somebody by squirting them with a squirt gun.

Matt's target is Jenny Herk (Zooey Deschanel, Almost Famous, Mumford), a classmate. Herks' lives with her mother Anna (Rene Russo, Showtime, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle) and stepfather Arthur (Stanley Tucci, Sidewalks of New York, America's Sweethearts). Arthur stole money from his company, who hired Henry Algott (Dennis Farina, Sidewalks of New York, Snatch) and Leonard (Jack Kehler, Dirt, Auggie Rose). Wait, there's more. Arthur is trying to buy a missile from some Russians, and runs into Puggy (Jason Lee, Vanilla Sky, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back). Two dumb thugs, Snake (Tom Sizemore, Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor) and Eddie (Johnny Knoxville, The Ringer, Coyote Ugly) kidnap them, hoping to get some more money from Arthur. Moreover, Anna hates Arthur and may have a thing for Arnold, who definitely has a thing for her. Puggy is living in a tree in Arthur's backyard, and falling in love with Arthur's maid Nina (Sofia Veraga). Mix in a herd of goats, Gator fans, a hallucinogenic toad, cops Monica Ramiro (Janeana Garofalo, Titan A.E., Wet Hot American Summer) and Walter Kramtz (Patrick Warburton, Joe Somebody, Dirt) and FBI agents Alan Seitz (Heavy D., Next Afternoon, The Cider House Rules) and Pat Greer (Omar Epps, Dracula 2000, Brother) and one can get an idea of the ambitious scope of the story.

There is a lot going on, and adapters Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone (Life, Destiny Turns on the Radio) literally throw all the elements together, yielding mixed results. Everybody is a little off center, and there are enough people that there is not enough time to get bored before the wackiness quickly moves on. The story relies on the oddness and stupidity of most of its characters, with other characters like Puggy, Jenny, and Algott watching in exasperation. Watching how dumb some of these people are is where the humor comes in, and also where most of the misfires in the script lie. Some of what Sonnenfeld shows is funny, some is not. Nothing is flat out stupid, but nothing is hilarious. Everything kind of lands somewhere in the middle. Big Trouble does slowly mushroom, taking small events and misunderstandings and having them snowball out of proportion, but instead of feeling of feeling bizarrely natural, some of the antics feel forced, as if they were put into the story just to make it funny. Sonnenfeld diverts focus from some of the more interesting characters, always bringing it back to Allen. Allen does not have enough charisma to carry the movie, and it would be funnier to see more of Lee, Warburton, or Deschanel. Big Trouble never approaches the farce it aspires to be, but it does have some funny moments along the way.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 33 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language, crude humor, and sex-related material.

Back to Movies