Artisan // 1997 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // December 12th, 2003
A Jumbo Sized Comedy
An elephant escapes from a poacher and winds up in the backyard of four mischievous children. When their single mother finds out, she calls the zoo. Will the zoo's hunky bachelor vet arrive in time to save the elephant from the poacher, fall in love with the mother, and provide the kids with a male role model?
Adults will be unimpressed by Tons of Trouble. Every aspect of the movie seeks the lowest common denominator, from the derivative writing to the copious clichés to the wooden line reading that passes for acting. While watching this tripe, I grit my teeth in anticipation of each clunker. The bar started out low, and crept ever lower until it was repeatedly whacking me in the kneecaps.
The real question, then, is whether kids will enjoy it. My guess is a resounding "No." Kids have remarkable critical intuition when it comes to media. True, they sometimes embrace annoying characters or fall for clever marketing ploys, but more often than not they can identify a steaming pile of elephant dung for what it is. In the face of this DVD, kids would probably pick fights, throw popcorn, fake death, or give other subtle clues of boredom.
There are many things wrong with this movie. The editing is amateurish, lacking purpose or contextual cues. Conversations are entirely comprised of back and forth close-ups, with no overlapping dialogue. The actors could be on separate continents for all we know:
Close-up of mom: "Hello, son, how are you?"
Close-up of kid: "I am fine, mommy."
Close-up of mom: "That is good. Will you go outside and play?"
Close-up of kid: "Yes, I would like that. But first let me pout and break this glass bowl for cheap laughs. "
Close-up of mom: "Bye now."
This unsophisticated technique is obviously meant to disguise the multiple takes needed to capture legible dialogue from the zombie children. It has the secondary effect of making this 92-minute film feel like a five hour instructional video on elephant hygiene.
The children lack any hint of charisma, and are anti-photogenic to boot. They constantly perform such "antics" as pouring syrup on the floor, peeing into the goldfish bowl, throwing softballs through the windows, and picking fights with each other. Are we meant to detest these wretched mongrels? Are they the villains or the heroes?
The rest of the cast is comprised of no-name actors who look like big name stars. See any passing resemblance between the pairs below? The resemblance is even greater in motion, as these doppelgangers impersonate the facial quirks of their targets.
All aspects of direction, set construction, lighting, and costuming are transparent. It is as though the director is hoping we will ignore the spray painted plywood set, pretend to laugh when the little trolls mumble their indecipherable cutisms, and then swoon as the fake Marisa Tomei kisses the fake Scott Bakula.
As the predictable plot plods onward, the viewer will sink further and further into despair. Definitely not for adults, this kid's movie alienates parents and children alike with crude gags that are supposed to be funny and base violence that is supposed to be heartwrenching. With poor audio-visual quality and no extras, there is no reason to consider this dreck. Tons of Trouble mustered a mighty score of 1.6 at IMDb, which ranks it equivalent to the worst rated movies of all time: From Justin to Kelly and Manos' the Hands of Fate.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* IMDb Bottom 100 Movies