| I consider myself to be just as avid a reader as I am
a movie-watcher, which leaves me in quite the awkward position.
From time to time, Hollywood takes it upon itself to adapt a
novel into a film. At some point in the page-to-screen transfer,
the book's heart and soul are ripped out, blended until frothy,
and served to the audience in the form of a putrid beverage.
Why this is true is simply beyond me. Itís not like so many
books are that difficult to bring to life. Hell, look at Lord
Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring. That book is about
as dense as a cinderblock and they did all right with it, cinematically.
It makes no sense and here now, we have yet another example
of adaptation gone awry.
The novel Big Trouble, written by (in my opinion)
national treasure Dave Barry, is one hell of a read. Itís
smart, funny, and thoroughly enjoyable, containing well-defined
characters, great plotting, and Barryís trademark wit. Granted,
itís not exactly Ulysses; itíll never be taught to
college students, but thatís not what itís there for. It exists
solely to be fun and exciting and to make you want to keep
turning the page. This, folks, should not be a difficult thing
to transfer to the screen. However, the film version, also
called Big Trouble, is one disappointing bit of fluff
if Iíve ever seen one.
The plot is fairly complicated, so try to stick with me.
Tim Allen is an advertising man who hates his job and is hated
by his son. They meet Renee Russo, whoís in miserable marriage
to Stanley Tucci (who, by the way, is embarrassing in this)
and has a daughter who likes Tim Allenís son. Elsewhere, there
are two hit men who are out to kill Stanley Tucci and a homeless
man played by Jason Lee who likes Fritos and is the only one
who can lift the suitcase. The suitcase is the movieís maguffin.
We only see inside of it at the last bit of the film, but
we know itís large, heavy, and oh so lethal. There are some
other characters in the movie (various criminals, various
cops, and FBI agents) but theyíd only confuse things. As you
can see, the plot is quite twisty and interconnected and if
there was going to be anything in the movie that would be
hard to transfer, by all accounts, it should be this. However,
getting all of the plot into the movie and having it make
sense is the one thing that director Barry Sonnenfeld accomplishes
with flying colors. Let it never be said that this was an
The filmís problems begin with the characters. As I mentioned
earlier, Dave Barry gave the filmís writers some great characters
to work with. All were funny, well thought-out, and intelligent,
even the dumb ones. But all of that seemed to be inconsequential
to the writers and to Sonnenfeld. Every single character in
the film is merely a sketch of what was on the page. There
is absolutely NO character development anywhere in the movie,
whatsoever. And what makes it even worse is that the movie
is only 80 minutes long! An extra half-hour to beef up the
characters a tad wouldnít have killed them. By the end of
the film, you feel like youíre just starting to understand
the folks on-screen, and then the credits roll, leaving you
a very unfulfilled audience member. The other major problem
here isnít really the movieís fault. Thereís a section of
the film toward the end that involves two very criminal-looking
men getting a few guns, a big bomb, and a couple of hostages
through airport security with pretty much no problems. Pre-September
11th, this would have been mildly uncomfortable, but now itís
just downright wrong. The theater that I was in fell completely
silent during this part and after that, whatever small amount
of goodwill that had accumulated was pretty much killed off.
Now granted, they were only doing what was written by Barry,
but stillÖ Theyíve had a few months, they might should have
considered a different ending.
I do want to point out, in the sake of honesty, that yes,
I did laugh a few times. It wasnít an absolutely horrible
time in my seat and I guess thatís saying something. However,
movies like Big Trouble are, I believe, even more frustrating
than the really horrible ones. All that wasted potential,
all of that ďif theyíd just done THISĒ kind of thinking. It
ultimately just leaves you frustrated and disappointed, which
Iím fairly sure wasnít the filmmakersí intent.