Big Trouble
directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
(Touchstone, 2002)

Back in 1988, Miami Herald columist Dave Barry won a Pulitzer for his work. In 2002, a movie based on Barry's novel Big Trouble was released.

While the film version of Big Trouble has its bizarre moments, it probably could have used a screenwriter on par with Barry to doctor it up. It didn't get one. The result of moving Barry's novel to the big screen is a mushy 90 minutes of "toss everything in there, make everyone run around and it'll move so fast it'll be funny."

It all comes down to this: lots of Miami residents (including Tim Allen as -- get this -- an offbeat Miami Herald columnist) running around trying to gain possession of, or get rid of, a big bomb in a suitcase.

There's Allen as Eliot Arnold, a recently divorced father whose son thinks he is, hands down, the biggest loser on Earth (and not only because he's just purchased a shameful Geo Metro). His son is friends with Jenny Herk (Zooey Deschanel), whose father, Arthur (Stanley Tucci), is secretly an arms dealer.

Arthur buys a bomb, not knowing that the whole time he's being followed by a pair of would-be assassins. When his big weapons buy is interrupted by two carjackers, his family, their friends and a pair of cops all get tossed into the chase.

It ends with the bomb aboard a Bahamas-bound plane -- a detail that, in the wake of Sept. 11, derailed the movie's original opening date.

Big Trouble careens through all this without taking a breath, and that's sometimes enough to carry it along. Director Barry Sonnenfeld has taken a break from his billion-dollar Men in Black franchise for this romp through the sleazier side of Miami (and the movie infers there is no other side to Miami, despite what its Chamber of Commerce may say), and he handles a huge ensemble cast deftly.

Besides Tucci, Allen and Deschanel, there's Tom Sizemore as one of the goofball carjackers (their heads adorned with pantyhose disguises that are so dark they can't see properly), Janeane Garofalo as a police officer, Heavy D and Omar Epps as FBI agents and Jason Lee as the hippie Puggy. Everyone seems to be having a great time, especially Garofalo as the sarcastic Officer Romero, and Deschanel, who channels the cartoon character Daria in her deadpan Jenny.

Sometimes the campiness lifts off, but sometimes, all that breathless action around a bomb is a heavier weight than the fluffy Big Trouble can handle.

- Rambles
written by Jen Kopf
published 3 May 2003

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