Many critics will undoubtedly point to Big Trouble’s unfortunate subject matter (particularly an extended plane-hijacking sequence and an excruciating lampooning of airport security) as the reason for the film’s certain failure at the box office. Disney, the film’s distributor, will surely cling to that theory as well, having already pushed the film’s opening back from its original release date last fall. Granted, the story – about a smuggled nuclear bomb that passes through the hands of an assortment of outlandish characters – certainly suffers from very bad timing. But no amount of moldering on a shelf could save this dud – the problems go much deeper than its admittedly controversial themes.
At first glance, this new film by director Barry Sonnenfeld seems a breezy companion to his previous Get Shorty. Both movies feature a Miami setting, a catchy score and an assortment of quirky characters involved in curious shenanigans. But while Get Shorty, based on a novel by crime-genre king Elmore Leonard, cleverly skewered Hollywood by comparing it to the Miami underworld, Big Trouble, based on a book by humor columnist Dave Barry, merely presents an odd group of unlikable losers (including Tim Allen, Rene Russo, Dennis Farina, Stanley Tucci, Tom Sizemore, Janeane Garofalo and Patrick Warburton) thrown together via intermingling storylines so contrived and convoluted it’ll make your head spin.
Adding insult to injury, the film brazenly wastes the abundant talents of almost everyone involved. Most of the time, the actors appear lost, as if Sonnenfeld had simply abandoned his directorial duties altogether. Left to their own devices, the performers often seem to be trying to trump one another, like overconfident participants in an amateur improv class. Perhaps they would have been better off if they had improvised; the script, filled to the brim with painfully unfunny material (and full of sexual innuendo as written by a gang of horny – and illiterate – prepubescent boys) didn’t really give the actors much to work with. The jokes are beyond lame – one running gag revolves around Martha Stewart, which might have been funny had the film come out five or six years ago. Other “hilarity” includes a crotch-sniffing dog, a psychedelic toad, a foot-fetishist, and a homeless hippie obsessed with Fritos.
Though it strives for a deadpan feel, the film ultimately just feels dead. At one point, an exasperated character yelps, “Who thinks this shit up?” I was wondering the same thing myself.