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Case Number 00091

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Raising Arizona

Fox // 1987 // 94 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // August 10th, 1999

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All Rise...

The Charge

A comedy beyond belief.

Opening Statement

In this classic from the Coen brothers, pre-famous stars Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter light up the screen in this screwball comedy. The DVD is from Fox…need I say more?

The Evidence

Now that I've seen this film a ton of times (especially on TV in the late '80s and early '90s) it's hard to say that I never know where this film is headed. I know exactly where it is headed, but the first time I saw it I didn't, and I still can't help but watch this film. Raising Arizona has a unique style of comedy that doesn't appeal to everyone; it doesn't even appeal to me that much, but the film is shot and edited in such a way that you can't help but enjoy yourself while witnessing the enigma that this film is.

As the film begins, we see what appears to be a love story; a different kind of love story. Convenience store robber H.I. (Nicholas Cage) ends up falling in love with a beautiful deputy, Ed (Holly Hunter), who continually takes his mug shot each time he returns to prison. Once married, H.I. promises to stay out of trouble for Ed and help to raise a family. However, the couple hits a bump in the road when they discover Ed is "barren" and unable to have a child. It just so happens at the same time the wife of rich businessman Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson) gives birth to a set of quintuplets (that's five babies, for those playing along at home). Ed comes to the conclusion that the Arizona family has too much to handle with their new children and decides to kidnap one of the babies, with the help of her husband. Then the opening credits begin to roll…

The story of Raising Arizona continues on its unpredictable and outrageous path as the couple successfully kidnap Nathan Arizona, Junior. As soon as Nathan Jr. returns home with Ed and H.I., H.I.'s old prison buddies Gale and Evelle (John Goodman and William Forsythe) show up at the couple's trailer, seeking shelter after their recent jailbreak. While H.I. and Ed try to perfect their parenting skills, dealing with Gale and Evelle at the same time, Nathan Arizona, Sr. offers a $30,000 reward for the return of his son. Soon everyone is after baby Nathan, from Gale and Evelle, to H.I.'s boss, and even a sadistic "baby hunter" on a motorcycle, named Leonard Smalls.

What has always stood out, for me, in Raising Arizona is the break-neck speed at which the film progresses, and how certain scenes are filmed. There are many P.O.V. shots from odd perspectives (anything from dogs to grenades) as well as great moving shots. This is most likely accredited to the director of photography on the film, Barry Sonnenfeld, who would go on to direct such movies as Men in Black and Wild Wild West. Of course, the film itself was envisioned by the creative odd-ball Coen brothers, and the characters are brought to life by a great cast that knows exactly how to play their unique characters.

So how does the DVD look? Fox does a decent job transferring Raising Arizona over to DVD. While the video transfer is not anamorphic, the 1.85:1 letterboxed image looks crisp and clean throughout the film. There seemed to be a little grain on the film but it appeared to be more of a problem with the print used for the transfer, and not the process itself. The two-channel Dolby Digital surround track on this disc seems true to the film. In their odd sense of humor the Coen brothers use a well placed (if not weird) score that sounds fairly good (but definitely not stunning) on DVD. Sound effects also sound decent, but nothing spectacular (nor is this film meant to sound extraordinary). Dialogue is the best part of the audio track, which is well placed and re-created nicely on this DVD. Aside from having an anamorphic transfer, I doubt any version of Raising Arizona will be able to look and sound much better than on this DVD.

Extra content is where Fox is constantly lacking, but there are a few exceptions. Is Raising Arizona one of these exceptions? Absolutely not! For your money you will get a theatrical trailer for the film and three TV spots. In addition you get two trailers for Coen brothers films supposedly coming soon to DVD, including Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Not everyone will enjoy the unique humor in Raising Arizona. Some of it is very witty and well placed (see the subtitles in the first scene with Nathan Arizona and his wife) while some humor is very subtle and hard to catch. Even if you don't like the jokes in this film (which should make you laugh, at least once) you still can be captivated by the pacing and shooting of the film. It might not be a film everyone wants to own, but if you've never seen it, I suggest a rental.

Fox, Fox, Fox…what are we going to do with Fox? I'm starting to get really impressed with their transfers (see There's Something About Mary) but they have to start using anamorphic widescreen. Fox and Disney (well maybe not even Disney anymore) are the only holdouts on anamorphic widescreen. My problem is that I might just want to watch Raising Arizona five or ten years down the road and it just won't look good on my widescreen TV. I'd like to only purchase DVDs from Fox once, but the way Fox is going, most people will end up purchasing films twice (once now, and once later when they offer an anamorphic version).

I have covered Fox and extra content more times than I can remember. It just isn't there. Most consumers didn't buy into DVD so they could get trailers on the films they purchase; they want commentary tracks, deleted scenes, interviews with cast and crew, 3D models of the characters in the film; anything but trailers! In Fox's defense, they added two extra trailers on this disc. Now I'm impressed.

Closing Statement

Raising Arizona will not disappoint in the audio/visual department but Fox fails, yet again, to deliver the goods in the extra features department. Unless you truly love this film, save yourself $30 and rent this film; it's still worth a viewing.

The Verdict

Film acquitted, Fox has "three strikes and you're out" ruling laid down for repeat extra content offenders; life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 76
Extras: 32
Acting: 87
Story: 86
Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Original Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots


• IMDb

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