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" I’ll be monitoring your frequency "
— Zoe Saldana, Star Trek

MRQE Top Critic

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Big Trouble tells the tale of intertwining lives that starts off with a couple of misunderstandings and an assassination attempt, and ends with a nuclear bomb exploding off the Florida coast. Oddly enough, the material is actually funny.

It’s A Barry, Barry Crazy World

Fun movie gets no extra points on DVDWith a screenplay based on a book by Dave Barry, Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) has been given prime material for his off-kilter and frenetic cinematic sensibilities.

The cast is terrific, with Tim Allen (Galaxy Quest) starring as Eliot Arnold, a down-on-his-luck father of a teenage son who eagerly reminds his dad of his failed marriage, failed career, and other failures.

That son, Matt (Ben Foster, The Laramie Project), plays a high school prank on a schoolmate, Jenny Herk (Zooey Deschanel, Almost Famous). She’s the stepdaughter of Arthur (Stanley Tucci, America’s Sweethearts), a marked man after swindling money out of his employer. Arthur’s married to Anna (Rene Russo, Get Shorty), an undersexed housewife who wouldn’t mind seeing him knocked off.

Those are just a few of the players; there are many, many more thugs, bums, students, Florida Gator fans, cops, and robbers fitting into the mix. Being an equal-opportunity film, even a toad, a dog, and Martha Stewart are given screen time and yield entertaining results.

Oh yeah, and Jason Lee (Vanilla Sky) plays a jobless freebird named Puggy who lives in a tree and has an insatiable appetite for Fritos.

The Art Of The Contrivance

With a storyline that escalates from the highly unlikely to the thoroughly implausible, Big Trouble moves from one contrivance to the next. However, its light-hearted, gung-ho spirit and “into it” cast keeps it afloat and extremely watchable.

With his film clocking in at 85 minutes, including credits, Sonnenfeld wastes no time on exposition. He thrusts the audience into a situation and unapologetically lets them fend for themselves.

Big Trouble is not a subtle movie and its content is hardly of the sort that holds up under close scrutiny, or even analysis from a zillion miles away. Introspection, sensitivity, and sensibility are all left at the door and that is part of the film’s fun and charm. It is unabashedly whacked and as such it is a nice change of pace.

DVD Extras

The DVD of Big Trouble falls flat. The only real supplement is a commentary by Sonnenfeld. The director can be given credit for explaining why the film clocks in at a slight 85 minutes and why it would’ve/could’ve been a two-hour film in the hands of other directors, as well as making a jab at his own film’s financial failure. He also explains his take on comedy and what’s funny and how to present it in a funny way. However, he can be a bit boastful and tiresome to listen to over the course of the entire feature.

Aside from two trailers (Corky Romano and Out Cold) and Spanish and French subtitles, the only other “bonus” is perhaps the lamest extra feature ever included on a DVD. Somebody decided to include an edited “highlights” edition titled “The 5-Minute Movie” for those without time to watch the entire movie. It actually runs for 7 minutes 50 seconds. Lame.

Picture and Sound

While the picture (presented solely in widescreen) is fine and typical of Touchstone DVDs, the film is presented solely in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. That soundtrack is clear and rich enough, and one which Sonnenfeld makes note of (for those with the right audio equipment, he adds) on several occasions during his commentary.

It’s a shame the studios are so quick to shortchange the DVD-viewing public. At first, DVDs offered both widescreen and pan-and-scan (for those so inclined) editions of the film on one disc; now they’re trying to pawn off the different formats on discs sold separately. (At least for the more popular films; Big Trouble is available only in widescreen.)

The DVD format is also capable of storing several different soundtracks on one disc. While the most popular formats are Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Dolby 2.0 Surround, and DTS 5.1 Surround, the powers that be decided Dolby Digital 5.1 sound would be Joe Public’s only option when viewing Big Trouble. That’s a big gyp.