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Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Producers: Barry Sonnenfeld and Tom Jacobson
Written by: Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone
Cast: Tim Allen, Renee Russo, Tom Sizemore, Stanley Tucci, Johnny Knoxville, Dennis Farina

Rating: out of 5

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 inaccurate translation.

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.

Clinton Davis

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

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Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

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