Touchstone Pictures // 2002 // 85 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 6th, 2002
They have forty-five minutes to save the world.
They need forty-six.
Big Trouble is based on the Dave Barry book of the same name. The plot is a weaving of various wild and wacky characters merging together in an insane attempt to stop an explosive bomb in a suitcase from making mince meat of the world...and just for kicks, it all takes place in Miami, Florida. Among the eclectic nuts are journalist/newly divorced dad Eliot Arnold (Tim Allen, The Santa Clause) and his son Matt (Ben Foster, Liberty Heights), the sleazy and rich Arthur Herk (Stanley Tucci, The Impostors), his disgruntled wife Anna (Rene Russo, Showtime), and their cynically deadpan daughter Jenny (Zooey Deschanel, Mumford), bungling burglars Snake (Tom Sizemore, The Relic) and Eddie (Johnny Knoxville, MTV's Jackass), two inept and annoyed hit men (Dennis Farina and Jack Kehler), two suspicious cops (Janeane Garofalo and Patrick Warburton), yet two more government agents (Omar Epps and rapper Heavy D), a Jesus-like homeless man named Puggy (Jason Lee, Dogma), and one very nasty psychedelic toad (nameless reptile as himself). All of these folks will come together for big laughs...and Big Trouble!
I was one of the seemingly low number of people genuinely excited to see Big Trouble when it was released theatrically in the spring of 2002. For umpteen years I'd been a fan of writer Dave Barry, and the prospect of director Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams' Family, Men in Black) turning Barry's first novel into a feature film seemed like comedic gold. Alas, Big Trouble only ends up with the silver medal. Not that this is a bad thing -- though Big Trouble certainly won't go down in history as the funniest film ever produced, it does include its fair share of charm, wit, and utterly stoo-pid gags that feature poisonous toads, robbers with lederhosen over their heads, and Tim Allen walking around an office with a computer monitor stuck to his foot. Sound interesting? Surprisingly, it is -- there are a lot of grand chuckles to be had in Big Trouble, along with some wonderfully offbeat performances. While Tim Allen and Rene Russo are fine as the leads, they're all but upstaged by the secondary character actors -- Dennis Farina plays well off his surroundings (he hates Miami), Patrick Warburton is his usual dry self, and Stanley Tucci is both menacing and effeminate as the film's resident baddie (though it's hard to hate a guy who likes to erotically suck women's toes). The jokes run the gambit from inspired (Martha Stewart's cameo is a gut buster) to delightfully silly (one character notes during a robbery that he thinks he hears one of those "silent alarms") to the just plain dumb (I got just four words for you: goats on the highway). Unfortunately, Big Trouble had the bad luck of A.) including a plot about blowing up a major city and B.) having a release schedule after the events of September 11th, 2001. As such, the film was shelved for a while and then released to little in the way of box office receipts. Though critics were not kind (and who listens to us anyways?), the fact remains that Big Trouble ends up being big fun.
Big Trouble is presented in a very attractive looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The picture appears to be in great condition with colors and black levels all well saturated and solid. While there were a few minor defects in the image (including a slight amount of haloing), overall this ended up being a fine image from BV. The soundtrack is presented in an apt Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix in English. The directional effects and surround sounds on this track are used to ample effect without being overly bombastic. All aspects of the mix are free and clear of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Since Big Trouble wasn't a big hit with audiences, it's no surprise to find this disc pretty bare when it comes to supplemental materials. However, Buena Vista has done right by throwing on a commentary track by director Barry Sonnenfeld. Sonnenfeld comes off as a genuinely likable guy who has an hysterical sense of humor; his wit is as dry as the Mohave Desert. This track is filled with a bountiful amount of stories, anecdotes, and other fun tidbits about the cast and production. Also included on this disc is a goofy "five minute movie" version of the film that condenses the story to around eight minutes (and the reason it wasn't called "eight minute movie" would be...?), as well as a few theatrical trailers for the better-than-you-think comedy Out Cold and the cruddy Chris Kattan flick Corky Romano.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Commentary by Director Barry Sonnenfeld
* "Five Minute Movie" Short
* Theatrical Trailers
* Dave Barry's Official Site