Director Barry Sonnenfeld has had an interesting career, first serving as cinematographer for some of the Coen Brother's earlier efforts. Eventually, he became a director himself, starting out with the low-key crime comedy "Get Shorty" and building up into bigger pictures such as "Men in Black" and the quite dismal "Wild Wild West". With "Big Trouble", he attempts to return to the kind of sunny sarcasm that made "Get Shorty" occasionally very funny.
A lot of people who are seeing ads for "Big Trouble" once again are probably wondering why the film looks so familiar. Originally intended for release in early September of 2001, the film was postponed due to the last quarter or so of the picture, which involves a couple of not-very-bright criminals attempting, successfully, to get a neuclear weapon past airport security, even bribing a ticket agent. The film attempts to play these events as humorous, but they're just rather disturbing and ridiculous.
The rest of the film? Well, Sonnenfeld has not only unsuccessfully attempted to create "Get Shorty Redux", he's also taken "streamlined" to a new level. Clocking in at, by my calculations, somewhere around 80 minutes with credits, there really isn't much in the way of character or plot development. As a result, it'll probably be difficult for most audience members to care a great deal about the characters or situations. I understand that this is based upon a novel by best-selling humorist Dave Barry, but it would have been a fine idea for the screenwriters to rescan the novel to attempt to find more successful material, ditch some of the supporting characters to focus more on the leads, fill-out the screenplay or a mixture of all three.
There really isn't a great deal of story. Tim Allen plays the head of a small Miami advertising firm whose son is involved in a game with the rest of the high school kids where they find each other and spray one another with squirt guns (kinda like tag, only across Miami). His son's latest target is the daughter of a mean-spirited executive (Stanley Tucci) who is the target of a hitman (Dennis Farina, giving far and away the best performance of the movie).Tucci's executive (for some reason that I'm still not clear on) decides to buy a bomb, which is promptly stolen by two idiot criminals (Tom Sizemore/Johnny Knoxville), who also take Tucci's daughter (Zooey Deschanel) hostage. Meanwhile, two Miami police officers, two FBI agents, the exec's bored wife (Rene Russo) and Allen's character are in persuit. I haven't even mentioned the maid of Tucci's character who sees a bum (Jason Lee) in a tree and thinks he's Jesus. Nor have I talked about the psychedelic toad, a hilarious little animatronic figure that gives a fine supporting performance.
Ok, it does sound like a lot, but the film really doesn't fill out the characters much or bring them together smoothly. The Russo and Allen characters fall for one another absurdly fast and the two have no chemistry. Tucci's exec is supposed to be in trouble with his company, but there's hardly any details as to why. Jason Lee's character hardly seems to have a point in the film. The performances aren't much of a help, either. Allen underplays for once and ends up seeming bored and bland. Farina redoes his "Get Shorty" character hilariously and has the film's few funny lines. Russo's hardly got much material to work with, nor does Tucci. Garofalo and Warburton are fairly funny together - although they don't get great material here, I got the sense they should have their own movie together. The rest of the cast either has little presence or seem like they've only got cameos.
This is not a film without a few minor laughs early on, but things get progressively worse up until the last quarter, which is completely dismal. Hopefully Sonnenfeld's upcoming "Men in Black II" will offer a return to the director's sharp style of humor, which is almost completely absent here.