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Big Trouble

nothing special

Sooner or later, all the great novels had to dry up, leaving Hollywood producers scraping the dregs of the literary establishment in order to come up with something fresh and exciting. Unfortunately, what they turned up was Dave Barry. Dave Barry? Yes the same Dave Barry — heir apparent to Andy Rooney who decided he couldn't wait for the old geezer to retire so he wrote a novel instead — that Barry Sonnenfeld decided to make into a movie. Don't get me wrong, Barry is a great columnist, but as a novelist he is no Henry James or Elmore Leonard, masters of their respective genres whose work are understandably sought after for adaptation. But making a movie out of Dave Barry's novel? Come on, you're just asking for big trouble.

The movie reads much like a first novel, but it's even worse because you'd expect the director (Sonnenfeld) would help make the script coherent to follow. If Francis Ford Coppola could turn Mario Puzo's The Godfather into an Oscar winning film then Sonnenfeld surely could... well, uh, never mind...

The movie stars Tim Allen as Elliot Arnold, a recently divorced ex-columnist turned advertising agent who wants his son Matt's (Ben Foster) respect. When Matt partakes in a prank to squirt down his classmate Jenny Herk (Zooey Deshanel) he intrudes on Henry's (Dennis Farina) assassination attempt of Jenny's Stepfather Arthur Herk (Stanley Tucci). Having got wise to the assassination attempt, Arthur undertakes a series of precautions which include two Russian immigrants, a pair of FBI agents on their trail, and a suitcase filled with a nuclear bomb. Oh yeah, Renee Russo, Jason Lee, Janeane Garafolo, Heavy D, Omar Epps, Patrick Warburton, Sofia Vergara and Andy Richter also make appearances.

The film suffers from an overabundance of plots occurring simultaneously for about 90 minutes. Is it a romance? A caper? A comedy? They're all there, but unfortunately they do not all fit with each other. As individual scenes, there are some really funny moments — especially with Dennis Farina who is one of the best all time supporting actors — but then there are scenes, especially with Jason Lee's character Puggy, that make you cry out and say "why wasn't he used more?" The same can be said for Rene Russo and Janeane Garafolo, two high profile actresses, who are hardly even used in the film.

The one constant character the audience could latch on to and enjoy is Arthur, played marvelously by Stanley Tucci, who was given a considerable amount of time on screen for not being the hero. Unfortunately, Tim Allen (the real hero) isn't as successful at nailing down his role, probably due to the stresses and strains of trying find time in the film where he could be a father in one scene, a loser in the next, a lover in the following and finally ending up a hero who saves Miami. So expect a few chuckles, and let's hope Sonnenfeld is reserving his talents for MIB 2.


Big Trouble
Rated PG-13
1 hour 33 minutes

Tim Allen
Rene Russo
Omar Epps
Dennis Farina
Janeane Garofalo