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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.75%
Worth A Look58.33%
Just Average: 2.08%
Pretty Crappy: 8.33%
Sucks: 12.5%

3 reviews, 30 user ratings

Big Trouble (2002)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Laughless adaptation of the Booger Jokes Guy."
1 stars

For the second time, director Barry Sonnenfeld has made a movie adaptation that was a funnier, better movie in its original book form.

First was 1995's Get Shorty, an amiable enough time-passer based on the laugh-out-loud Elmore Leonard novel. Now comes, belatedly, Big Trouble, based on Dave Barry's 1999 novel-length goof, a farce consciously patterned on the work of fellow South Florida writer Carl Hiaasen. Barry, hilariously, was incapable of striking a detached Novelist Stance in his first whack at fiction; he was always throwing in vintage little asides that let you know this wasn't a serious novel, just a tall tale told by your pal Dave.

Your pal Barry (Sonnenfeld, that is) has no such informal gifts, though he tries, bewilderingly, for a comically scattershot tone by beginning the movie with one narrator and then abandoning him for another. (This might be more accurately blamed on scripters Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, whose previous attempts at "comedy" were Destiny Turns on the Radio and Life.) The film is more or less faithful to the events in Barry's novel, lifts a good deal of Barry's witty dialogue, and recruits a proven cast of laugh-winners. Why, then, is it so resolutely unfunny? It's not because of the scene that forced the film's release to be postponed after 9/11, wherein a pair of oafish thugs successfully smuggle a nuclear bomb onto a plane. That's unfunny for the same reason everything else here is unfunny: Sonnenfeld, despite early success with the Addams Family films (I credit those to writer Paul Rudnick), just isn't a natural at this comedy thing.

Failed newspaper writer turned adman Eliot Arnold (Tim Allen) -- by virtue of being played by Tim Allen, one supposes -- takes center stage, whereas in Barry's book he was just one of many benighted characters pairing off in pursuit of the nuke. Eliot's son Matt (Ben Foster) has targeted schoolmate Jenny (Zooey Deschanel) to be "killed" by squirt gun; Eliot falls for Jenny's mom Anna (Rene Russo), who's stuck in a grisly marriage to an embezzling lout named Arthur Herk (Stanley Tucci). Along for the ride are two cops (Janeane Garofalo and Patrick Warburton), two FBI guys (Omar Epps and Heavy D), two hit men (Dennis Farina and Jack Kehler), and the aforementioned two lowlife thugs (Tom Sizemore and Johnny Knoxville). There's also a drifter named Puggy (Jason Lee), who lives in the Herks' tree and falls for their frightened maid Nina (Sofía Vergara).

At the beginning, Puggy tells us about Noah's ark, possibly to explain why Big Trouble has so many duos running around (not to mention goats, bufotenine-spewing toads, and the world's stupidest dog, a favorite Dave Barry motif). It's easy to see why Barry structured it that way: endless scenes of two people getting on each other's nerves. But the pairing-up in the movie seldom works; despite the talented cast, the matchmaking isn't inspired. Putting the sharp-tongued Janeane Garofalo and the laconic, macho Patrick Warburton together sounds funnier than it turns out to be; Tim Allen and Rene Russo strike no romantic or comedic sparks; Stanley Tucci, steeped in his character's obnoxiousness and, one hopes, using the paycheck to fund another movie like Big Night, is almost painful to watch. Even that great bulldog Dennis Farina, who outright stole Get Shorty, plays a disappointingly mild hit man.

Sonnenfeld plays most of Barry's notes but misses the music. I laughed often while reading the book; the movie never got more than a chortle from me. The script makes two particularly senseless changes to Barry's story near the end: Tim Allen races to the rescue, when readers know it should be Janeane Garofalo (who's left handcuffed to a shelf along with Tucci, switching places with Warburton's character in the book, for no reason other than to bring in a lame strip-search gag); and Tucci, hallucinating under the influence of the toad's bufotenine, thinks the family dog is Martha Stewart.

In the book, it was Elizabeth Dole; I could try to explain why Elizabeth Dole was funnier, but if you don't know, I can't tell you.

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originally posted: 01/01/07 20:41:12
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User Comments

12/20/12 raouljohn I missed the point of the story, but the third viewing made it clear! 5 stars
3/21/10 Maddog McCain Unexplicably funny. Might be because I love Dennis Farina, Zooey Deschanel and Dave Barry. 5 stars
3/07/08 SamanthaPayntr as funny as the book, i got to watch it again, i love Dave Barry! 4 stars
3/02/06 Anthony Feor Its good 4 stars
9/01/05 ES No rewatch value, tries hard to be an Americanized 'Lock, stock and two smoking barrels' 2 stars
8/07/05 Nicole Weinberg's review says it. Wanted to see this movie - watched and realized I already had! 4 stars
6/04/05 Ubu the Ripper OK. I admit it. I loved this movie. Don't ask me why. Maybe it was Zooey. 4 stars
5/12/05 Jennifer Regan Hilarious, a must see 5 stars
4/12/05 R.W. Welch Dumb fun. 4 stars
2/09/05 Jeff Anderson IT IS WHAT IT IS, ONE REALLY FUNNY FILM! Dennis Farina & Zooey Deschanel STAND OUT! 5 stars
10/04/04 tatum Could this have been edited down to the half hour sitcom it was meant to be? 2 stars
2/26/04 sarah knoxville! johnny knoxville looks proper sexy in this movie! meow! totally loved the movie 5 stars
5/11/03 Jack Bourbon Comedy-lite, but digestible. Funny car rental scenes. Russo's got a great ass, BTW. 4 stars
2/10/03 Ubu the Ripper In the hands of a brilliant director, this could have been a classic...oh well. 4 stars
11/16/02 Tim Taylor Surprisingly funny movie!! 4 stars
6/27/02 Film Dude Hilarious! Great cast, only 2 jokes fall flat. 5 stars
6/21/02 Hepta Hooty Busy Holding Dick joke coudda ben funny if not playd by over-the-top PC icon like Garofalo. 3 stars
6/15/02 Rosa Zared Monumental achievement! Stars Tim Allen and Rene Russo and neither one is annoying! 4 stars
6/13/02 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne Good except when OD-ing on PC of Garofalo's char, "don't look at my ass" and Buchanan joke. 4 stars
6/11/02 No supporter of Pat Buchanan, but..... Escapist comedy should be allowed to be just that; unamused by joke at Buchanan's expense. 4 stars
4/28/02 Obi Wan Was pretty good, but kept feeling like it was a total rip off of Get Shorty!! 4 stars
4/20/02 ajay funnier then I thought! I laughed out loud a bunch of times. 4 stars
4/13/02 Benjamin Leatherman Funny and stuff. 5 stars
4/13/02 JB Some good moments, good cast, but mostly dry already done jokes. 2 stars
4/07/02 Film Guy Funny, Good Cast 4 stars
4/07/02 natasha great cast, good fun, nice pace 4 stars
4/06/02 Nick2k funny good, not funny stupid. which is a wonderful thing... 5 stars
4/05/02 Film Dude Went in expecting shit. Went out with awe. True, it is very forgettable, but very enjoyable 5 stars
4/05/02 Peter Brook Dave Barry is a genius. Not a brilliant movie, but some jokes are a riot. 4 stars
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  05-Apr-2002 (PG-13)



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