by David Cornelius
Journey with me now, if you dare, into the darkest corners of Movie Limbo. As you look to your left, you will see “The Big White” finally being set free from this nightmarish void. Yes, you in the back, you have a question?Yeah. How come a movie with Robin Williams, Holly Hunter, and Woody Harrelson got stuck here?
"The more it tries to be clever, the bigger it fails."
Ah, good question indeed. No picture enters Movie Limbo with a clear cut reason, so we’re left to make our best guesses. And with “The Big White,” it comes down to this: It’s a pale “Fargo” wannabe whose trial run in international markets were so unimpressive (and whose teeny run in L.A. last winter garnered zero attention) that the producers found it impossible to grab studio distribution. The only choice, then, was to settle for a direct-to-video release. Yes, you with the green sweater.
So is this movie as bad as it looks?
Pretty much, yes. When you watch the movie, you’ll understand why nobody wanted to bother with it. It’s one of those films that tries way, way, way too hard to be kooky and oddball, and the very nature of its forcedness is what makes it flop. It’s one of those movies that wants to be hip, but winds up being irritating in a pretentious, poseur sort of way. You with the glasses?
What’s it about?
It’s about a hundred minutes too long. Oh, I’m just kidding. It’s the story of this poor schlep played by Robin Williams; he lives in some small Alaska town but for some reason has a fakey Southern accent. Anyway, the travel agency he runs is on the verge of bankruptcy, so he whips up a plan to pass off this body he finds in a Dumpster as the corpse of his missing brother. He’ll collect the insurance payout, and he can take his crazy wife to Tahiti or Acapulco or someplace. Hmm, yes?
Who’s his crazy wife?
Oh, that’s Holly Hunter. She’s good in the movie, but that’s because she’s good in everything. Her part, on the other hand, is ten kinds of terrible. She’s this loopy woman who’s crazy in the sense that she has no official mental illness, but she acts weird for cheap comic effect. She also thinks she has Tourette’s, meaning she’s cussing a lot. She doesn’t actually have Tourette’s, though; she just wants to have it. This is because screenwriter Collin Friesen thinks having Fake Tourette’s is hilarious or something.
Sounds pretty dumb.
Oh, it is. It really, really is. But Friesen thinks it’s brilliant, which is why he just runs that joke right into the ground. And director Mark Mylod is more than happy to let that joke ramble all it wants. After all, he’s the schmuck who made that Ali G movie, so he’s no stranger to handling terrible, unfunny comedy that thinks it’s being brilliant.
Hey, I like Ali G!
Whatever. Any other questions? Yes, you, sir, with the hat.
Yeah. You said there’s an insurance scam. Between that and the whole Alaska thing, just how much is this movie like “Fargo?”
Darn good question. The answer, I suppose, is that “The Big White” is exactly what “Fargo” would have been had “Fargo” not been any good. Friesen and Mylod really try to capture that Coen Brothers sensibility, populating their film with quirky characters, zany dialogue, and carefully planned camera placement. Oh, and there’s snow everywhere, so it just looks an awful lot like “Fargo.” And yeah, it does look pretty good, with some occasionally beautiful cinematography. But these guys don’t have a grasp on character the way the Coens do, nor can they get the same zing out of the black comedy. This movie simply goes through the motions, trying its darnedest to duplicate the Coens’ success but stumbling all the way. Yes, you?
So is anything in this movie any good, or is it all just a complete waste of time?
Well, the cast is really good. Even Williams, who, despite a very bad choice of accents, winds up alright. He’s in his low-key mode, and frankly, I think he’s better off in stuff like this, instead of hamming it up in crappy comedies like “RV.” Let’s see… I said Hunter was solid, and Harrelson’s not too shabby either. Giovanni Ribisi and Alison Lohman do fine; he’s an uptight insurance investigator, she’s his girlfriend, who’s a phone psychic (see what I mean about trying too hard to be eccentric?). Oh, and Tim Blake Nelson and W. Earl Brown are a couple of bumbling crooks.
Man! That sounds like a great cast.
It is, come to think of it. It really, really is. I suppose this movie’s lucky to have such talent on hand to keep the crappy material from sinking like a brick. On the other hand, though, you really wish the material would be up to par for this cast. They deserve so much better.Any more questions? No? OK, then. If you’ll follow me, we’ll head over to where they’ve been keeping the “Star Wars Holiday Special”…
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14710&reviewer=392
originally posted: 06/05/06 14:48:00