Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tim Allen, Omar Epps, Dennis Farina, Ben Foster, Janeane Garofalo, Jason Lee, Rene Russo, Tom Sizemore, Stanley Tucci
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Touchstone
Features: See Review
Length: 85 Minutes
Release Date: October 8, 2002

“I think you guys should turn yourselves in and plead not guilty by reason of stupidity.”

Film ***1/2

Big Trouble could very much be considered the Magnolia of screwball comedies, though it goes without saying that just about all the characters in this movie lack about 75% brain power as the ones in P.T. Anderson’s classic. Director Barry Sonnenfeld returns to his Get Shorty roots by bringing together a most terrific ensemble cast and delivering, I think, one of the most engaging comedies in quite some time. Blending together the feel of a star-studded Robert Altman piece with quirky humor that lies somewhere between Elmore Leonard and the Farrelly Brothers, though not as extreme, Big Trouble results in some major heart stopping laughs.

Set against the ever-so diverse city of Miami, the movie, which runs at a very breezy hour and twenty five minutes, chronicles a couple of days in the life several eccentric characters whose paths cross in a most unusual way. At the center of the craziness is Eliot Arnold (Tim Allen), an advertising exec who life has hit a current depressing position following a divorce and losing a devoted job as a daily columnist. His son, Matt (Ben Foster), gleefully calls him a loser, especially after considering buying a GEO of all cars. Through a series of cataclysmic events, Eliot meets the lovely Anna (Rene Russo), who’s married to a scumbag named Arthur Herk (Stanley Tucci) who loves no one but himself and his TV.

Other characters involved in the mix are a Jesus-resembling hippie named Puggy (Jason Lee),  hapless hit man Harry Algot (Dennis Farina), two mismatched cops (Janeane Garofalo, Patrick Warburton), Anna’s daughter Jenny (Zooey Deschanel), who is starting to fall for Matt, and a pair of bumbling criminal disasters named Snake (Tom Sizemore) and Eddie (Johnny Knoxville).

The movie’s central plot centers on Arthur, played by Tucci in a gleefully over the top performance. Arthur, after discovering he may be the target of a hit, plans to strike back with a blackmailing scheme involving the purchase of a nuclear missile that looks somewhat like a garbage disposal. The situation grows even more complicated when Arthur’s big purchase falls into the hands of Snake and Eddie, who think what they have is simply a case of rich goods. They figure this out while wearing ski masks, of course.

The biggest laughs in Big Trouble are in the riotous zany finale, which involves the pursuit of the Snake and Eddie to the airport, who have acquired a couple of hostages in addition to the big garbage disposal. Tom Sizemore and Johnny Knoxville may have created the two single dumbest characters ever to appear in a single movie. One of the biggest laughs is when the two, upon arriving at the airport, can’t decide between “arrivals” and “departures”, since they’re arriving at the airport but want to be departing on a plane. If you’ve ever wondered how dumb one individual can get, Sizemore’s final scene should be something of an indication. I swear, I laughed so hard; I had to rewind and see it again!

With an ensemble cast, a sharp director at helm, and countless laughs in its 85 breezy minutes, Big Trouble is quite simply one of the most hysterical and outrageous comedies to come out in some time. It makes a perfect companion piece to director Sonnenfeld’s Get Shorty, which is partially based in Miami and follows similar characterizations. It’s one of the director’s best films to date, which does the unthinkable task of striking low-intelligence with a certain level of cleverness.

Video ****

Barry Sonnenfeld has always had a gift for visuals in each of his movies, and Big Trouble is no exception. Touchstone has responded to this notion with quite a glorious looking disc, embracing all of the sharp images and color usage that is common in a Sonnenfeld movie. The anamorphic picture is clear and definitively sharp throughout the movie, and colors appear as superbly natural and vibrant as can be.

Audio ***1/2

A terrific 5.1 audio track is supplied by Touchstone for a comedy that often breaks into an action comedy mode, therefore providing a stunning sound quality. Dialogue is clear and thoroughly distinct, while individual scenes of physical and action comedy provide standout moments.

Features **

The disc includes a commentary by Barry Sonnenfeld, as well as a Five Minute version of the movie (How clever?).


Big Trouble is an ensemble comedy to be remembered. Filled left and right with outrageous moments and wit, this ranks as one of director Barry Sonnenfeld’s best films yet.