Big Trouble

on April 05, 2002 by Sheri Linden
A no-thinking-required comic romp, “Big Trouble” may not hit every mark, and even in its brief running time takes too long to hit its stride, but it nonetheless achieves an understated yet cartoonish silliness, and a certain warmth, thanks to an exceedingly likable ensemble and Barry Sonnenfeld's generally assured direction.

Based on a novel by nationally syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry, the film stars Tim Allen as Elliot, a down-on-his-luck former newspaper writer and the divorced father of teenaged Matt (Ben Foster), who sees him as the ultimate loser--the Geo he drives a prime emblem of his fallen state. When Matt gets into trouble over a prank aimed at Jenny (Zooey Deschanel--wonderfully deadpan), Elliot falls for the girl's mother (Rene Russo), who's unhappily married to the wealthy, impossibly arrogant Arthur (Stanley Tucci, in a fine balancing act just over the top). Also converging on the luxury Miami home are two hit men (Dennis Farina and Jack Kehler) who are after Arthur; a tree-dwelling, Frito-loving free spirit (Jason Lee); two of the stupidest thieves in history (Tom Sizemore and Johnny Knoxville); mismatched police partners (Janeane Garofalo and Patrick Warburton); a pair of irreverent FBI agents (Omar Epps and Dwight “Heavy D” Myers); and a Russian nuclear device.

The freewheeling highjinks traverse the Florida city with increasing urgency, picking up comic steam along the way. Though some of the humor is too broad by half, there are satisfying satiric threads that the game cast pulls off with winning style. Farina is especially good as the disgusted hit man who wants only to get his job done and flee the cow town he regards with such disdain (Gator fans especially), wittily conveying a great deal with just a look.

Because of its airport-set climax, the film was pushed back from its original release date after September 11, and though there may still be a discomfort factor over the bomb-on-a-plane element, the main trouble with “Big Trouble” is not its content but an energy deficit in the early proceedings. Though well written by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, the film doesn't consistently deliver the sheer looniness that it promises. Starring Tim Allen, Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, Dennis Farina, Jason Lee, Tom Sizemore, Johnny Knoxville, Ben Foster, Zooey Deschanel, Janeane Garofalo, Patrick Warburton, Omar Epps and Andy Richter. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Written by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone. Produced by Barry Sonnenfeld, Barry Josephson and Tom Jacobson. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for language, crude humor and sex-related material. Running time: 84 min

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