" I can safely say at this point that we are lost. "
— Heather Donahue, The Blair Witch Project

MRQE Top Critic

Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

Sponsored links

Originally scheduled for release in mid-September of last year, Big Trouble is finally being unleashed in theatres. In the post-September 11 climate of heightened airport security, with the topic of airplane hijackings having taken on extra urgency, Big Trouble has turned into a virtual homage to the politically incorrect. It might be a tough sell given its subject matter, but as far as comedies go, it’s as wacky as they come.

It’s A Barry, Barry Crazy World

Tim Allen has friends overWith 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.

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

Screenwriters Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, who previously collaborated on the Eddie Murphy flick Life, have turned Barry’s novel into a fast-paced and often hilarious romp.

The cast is terrific, with Tim Allen (Galaxy Quest) starring as Eliot Arnold, a down-on-his-luck father of a teenage son who has no qualms about reminding his dad of his failed marriage, failed career, and other failures.

That son, Matt (Ben Foster, The Laramie Project), effectively gets the ball rolling by playing a high school prank on a schoolmate, Jenny Herk (Zooey Deschanel, Almost Famous). She’s the daughter 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.

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.

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

Big Trouble’s brand of humor is not for everybody, but fans of both Barrys shouldn’t be disappointed.