This Month's Featured Equipment Reviews
Written by Mel Odom
Tuesday, 08 October 2002
|Touchstone Home Entertainment
||Tim Allen, Omar Epps, Dennis Farina, Ben Foster, Janeane Garofalo, Jason Lee, Rene Russo, Tome Sizemore, Stanley Tucci
Noted humor and satire newspaper columnist Dave Barry wrote the novel
on which “Big Trouble” was based. With the success of other Floridian
crime novel writers such as Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen, Barry’s
book was a natural bestseller and a movie prospect.
“Big Trouble” is an ensemble movie, telling the whole story through the
interwoven characters’ viewpoints and personal crises. The director,
Barry Sonnenfield, also directed the movie based on Leonard’s novel
“Get Shorty.” Sonnenfield keeps a lot of the same rapid editing style
and jazzy musical score, using the sound to heighten and tighten the
scenes and plot points.
Chapter 1 opens with Puggy (Jason Lee) telling part of the story, with
orchestral music playing in the background and light streaming through
a jungle that makes him look like a Jesus figure. Moving quickly
forward, the film picks up the story with Eliot Arnold (Tim Allen), a
one-time newspaper columnist for “The Miami Herald” turned ad agent who
is running his own agency. The jazzy music infuses the argument he’s
having with a client with action and nervous energy. In a flashback
that encapsulates his character’s weakness and problem, Eliot kicks in
his editor’s computer monitor in an explosion that rocks the subwoofer.
Bruce, the ad client who is obnoxious and keeps turning up throughout
the film, gripes at Eliot and tells him how he wants his ad done.
Eliot’s son Matt calls and asks to borrow the Geo, which is the car
Eliot now drives.
A screaming jet whipping by overhead opens Chapter 2, which Sonnenfield
admits to taking from “Get Shorty” in his commentary on the film. The
view pans to a mysterious metal case aboard a small transport truck. A
van arrives for the case. When the van doors open, the sounds punch
through the left and right front speakers. With the 5.1 surround sound
system, the case crashes onto the van deck, sounding incredibly heavy
as the case lid is lifted. The audio effects on the case are
intentionally amped, as discussed in the commentary, and every time the
case is onscreen being manipulated, it sounds huge and ominous. Two
hitmen arrive with a high-caliber rifle in a golf bag. Puggy arrives at
the Jolly Jackal bar where he runs into two lowlifes, Snake and Eddie,
who figure into the plot in a big way eventually. The metal case
arrives at the tavern, tying some of the plot elements to one location.
In Chapter 3, Puggy finds a new home in a tree that overlooks the home
of Arthur Herk (Stanley Tucci), where he lives with his wife Anna (Rene
Russo) and daughter Jenny. Arthur also has a maid named Nina, who Puggy
develops a crush on. Matt Arnold arrives in his father’s Geo, armed
with a squirt gun that he intends to use to splash Jenny. The sound
booms and crashes, thumping through the subwoofer. While Arthur puts
the moves on the maid, licking between her toes, heavy salsa music
underscores the sequence.
Two hitmen arrive to kill Arthur. Mosquitoes that whine through the
surround sound system’s front speakers plague them. As they’re getting
set up for the shot, Matt charges into the house with the squirt gun,
to the accompaniment of pounding Latin music that amps up the
intensity. Matt’s arrival throws the entire Herk household into chaos,
and it throws off the hitmen’s shot, putting the slug through the
television. Police sirens scream into the night, blaring from left to
right in the main speakers as the hitmen make their escape.
After the two police officers arrive, things get sorted out fairly
quickly, although the laughs and the humor are steady. The director’s
commentary is great because Sonnenfield points out the problems of
actors and actresses lying fallow for a week or more, acquiring
sunburns and other changes. This chapter also brings in the Geo’s
(intentionally) horrid sound system again, with a noise that thumps
through the subwoofer.
Nina meets with Puggy in Chapter 5, and salsa music underscores the
dialogue. However, when Eliot and Anna hook up at his office and the
lust between them explodes, big band swing music echoes through the
surround sound, placing the viewer squarely in the center of the
Arthur eventually decides to buy a missile to take out the guys that
are trying to kill him. This brings us back to the metal case that
showcases the ambient sound again as it thumps through the subwoofer.
In Chapter 7, Matt and Jenny meet so that he can “kill” her with the
squirt gun. While they’re occupied doing that, a drunk security guard
sees them, pulls a pistol he isn’t authorized to carry, and sets off in
pursuit. Shots thunder through the subwoofer, and the music score that
provides the dramatic undercurrent to the action whips through the
surround sound system. When a security guard puts a round through a
nearby car, the car alarm screams to life with deafening intensity.
Chapter 8 is absolutely hilarious when small-time crooks Snake and
Eddie bring Arthur back to his own home to rob the safe they’re certain
he has there. The thieves take the family hostage, leaving Eliot alone
in the kitchen. Hitmen Henry and Leonard are outside watching
everything take place. Back at the Jolly Jackal, the final two players
in the movie arrive in the form of a pair of F.B.I. agents tracking
down the nuclear weapon in the case. The door slams open and closed
through the left front speaker, matching the positioning on the screen.
The film pumps through the house burglary. Henry’s blow-by-blow
description of the action for Leonard really steals the show for a
while. Then the story is up and running, streaking like lightning
literally against the ticking clock of the nuclear bomb. Snake and
Eddie take off with Jenny and Puggy as hostages. They smash through the
gate, and the crescendo is loud enough to wake up the subwoofer.
The Geo is used for hot pursuit. The subcompact car rattles, clanks,
and va-rooms across the screen, and the sounds echo through the left
front, center, and right main speakers.
Chapter 9 features a huge car crash, with a Geo/goat collision that is
deafening as it explodes through the subwoofer. The action and the
jokes come fast and furious at that point as everyone converges on the
airport and the nuclear bomb.
“Big Trouble” doesn’t have much in the way of extras. One oddity is the
abbreviated feature that’s only seven minutes and 50 seconds long,
billed the “Five Minute Movie!” The commentary by Sonnenfield is good
and insightful, well worth the time spent sitting through the movie a
Fans of big comic crime movies will enjoy “Big Trouble.” Tim Allen also
provides some great laughs during this twisting rollercoaster rush of
madness, as do all of the cast members. However, while “Big Trouble” is
definitely worth renting for a night meant for light viewing and a big
bowl of popcorn, watching the movie again and again quickly loses
appeal once all the gags are revealed. The glitter and flash of the
story is excellent, but even with Allen’s voiceover, the movie lacks in
the kind characterization that really pulls in an audience.
|English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
|Widescreen 1.85:1, Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
||Audio Commentary with Director Barry Sonnenfield; “Five Minute Movie”; Sneak Peeks; English Closed-Captioning
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||42-inch Toshiba HD Projection TV