The Big Kahuna

Larry, Phil, and Bob are on the prowl. They work for a maker of industrial lubricants, and need to sell a contract with 'the big kahuna,' a president of a company that could potentially use their product. So begins The Big Kahuna, based on the play Hospitality Suite by Roger Rueff, who also adapted the play to screen. This also marks recent Oscar winner Kevin Spacey's first producing credit on a film, and the directorial debut of John Swanbeck. The play translates pretty well on screen; most of the events take place in a hotel suite where the three are hosting a reception. The Big Kahuna is basically a character study on Larry, Phil, and Bob, with little else present to distract from the three.

Larry (Kevin Spacey, Hurlyburly, American Beauty) is the most driven. He is loud, bombastic, vulgar, and knows what he wants, and how to get it. He wants the big kahuna. He needs this account. It is his only goal at this convention, and nothing will stop him from getting in. On the other hand, Phil (Danny DeVito, Drowning Mona, Man on the Moon) is more laid back. He realizes the importance of the sale, but also realizes that life will go on if they miss it. Both are veteran salesman, unlike Bob (Peter Facinelli, Supernova, Can't Hardly Wait), a young, honest person. Bob is taken aback by Larry's brashness, and does not think the sale is anything. The reception ends, and Larry and Bob fail to locate the big kahuna. Larry is furious when he learns that Bob did talk with him, and did not pitch the company. Instead, they spoke about dogs and religion. They want Bob to locate the big kahuna and try to ease in a sales pitch, and Bob agrees.

The main source of tension is between Bob and Larry. Bob is not a salesman. He feels it is wrong to do what is necessary in order to win a sale. He is a devout Christian, and feels that spreading the Gospel is the most important thing in the world. Larry feels the opposite way, and is furious that Bob is the only hope of getting the sale. The role of Larry allows Spacey to really act; long monologues and lots of opportunities to display a wide range of emotions. DeVito and Facinelli fall in his shadow until the third act of the movie, where they can finally shine. The tension level remains relatively high for most of the film, except for some sarcastic outbursts by Spacey. Lots of the dialogue focuses on the balance between work and life, and what the three value. Although Larry and Phil are very different people, they are good friends. Both are trying to teach Bob, both unconsciously and on purpose. The story begins to become convoluted at the end, with a resolution that does not resolve much. However, it is the acting by Spacey, DeVito, and Facinelli that really makes The Big Kahuna work.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated R for language

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