The Big Kahuna

on April 28, 2000 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   Three salesmen--fast-talking Larry (Kevin Spacey), troubled Phil (Danny DeVito) and innocent Bob (Pete Facinelli)--are stuck in a Wichita, Kansas hotel suite, plotting how to snag an important potential new client. Larry wants him at all costs, Phil has reservations on how best to approach him and Bob, the only one who has actually met him, is a Christian who would prefer to talk about religion rather than sales. What happens to them over the evening and into the morning will change them.
   Since it's helmed by veteran theatre director John Swanbeck and based on Roger Rueff's play, "The Big Kahuna" can't help but feel like a filmed play, especially considering that the three lead actors are basically the only ones who appear on screen. It's also traversing the same territory mined by "Death of a Salesman" and "Glengarry Glen Ross," with a nod towards "Waiting For Godot" for good measure. In that regard, "The Big Kahuna" is too familiar by half, with the arguments among the men rather pedestrian and uninspiring. But there's something fresh here, too. "The Big Kahuna" is about respect, assumptions and, in its juxtaposition of the views of Larry and Bob, both of whom generalize about people in ways that are cruel and untrue, unexpectedly touching. DeVito stands out in the film, limning a powerful but quiet portrait of a loyal company man who desperately wants to do something new with his life. Spacey isn't as memorable; he's just going through the motions with his lines and doesn't put enough emphasis on the man behind the jive-talking persona of Larry. Facinelli at first seems a stereotype of what Hollywood perceives a religious man to be but, later, as Bob is revealed to be less than he seems, he comes to life. "The Big Kahuna" never quite gels but it's memorable.    Starring Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Pete Facinelli. Directed by John Swanbeck. Written by Roger Rueff. Produced by Kevin Spacey, Elie Samaha and Andrew Stevens. A Lions Gate release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 90 min.
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