Raising Arizona (1987)

Film review: Raising Arizona (1987), directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

raisingarizonaThis is a film I saw years and years ago and seemed to remember it being quite funny. Funny how memory plays tricks on you like that, isn’t it?

In Raising Arizona, we meet H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage with a haircut inspired by Albert Einstein), a small-time good-for-nothing crook who keeps robbing convenience stores and getting thrown in jail. There, he finds the beautiful police woman Ed (Holly Hunter), and after a few bouts of getting in and out of jail, he proposes to her. They marry and don’t exactly live happily ever after.

They want a baby, and after many tries, the doctors discover that Ed is barren. Because it’s unlikely they’ll ever get an adoption through, the intended father being in and out of jail like a yo-yo, they have to find another solution. When local furniture tycoon Nathan Arizona and his wife end up on the news as proud parents of not one but five little babies … opportunity knocks. The McDunnoughs decide to help themselves to a baby, Robin Hood style.

Everything would be fine, if it wasn’t for the Snoats brothers (John Goodman and William Forsythe) breaking out of jail and coming to visit their old pal, a creepy bounty hunter (Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb) coming to look for the baby – and of course there being a $25,000 reward for the person who can return little Nathan Jr. to his rightful parents.

In general, I rather enjoy movies by the Coen brothers. I love The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou? for instance. Their style of comedy is familiar in Raising Arizona, which is one of their earliest works, but I found it too … shouty. You know, where people are travelling toward something they know they’re going to hit and they keep screaming at each other for what feels like hours before they actually hit something? That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about. Just made it cringeworthy and headache-inducing rather than being funny.

The actors are very good, but it’s Holly Hunter, John Goodman and Nicolas Cage we’re talking about, so I wouldn’t expect bad acting, at least not on their parts. Cobb creeps me out. If you saw him, you’d know why. The stuff that nightmares are made out of.

The idea that you’d be so desperate to have a baby that you’d steal one from someone who “has so many so they wouldn’t really miss one” is really alien to me, but then again, I’ve never been into babies in my entire life whereas other women can’t have babies soon enough and would be truly devastated if they couldn’t have any. Not to mention desperate. Anyway, moving on, as a fellow human being, I just can’t imagine leaving a baby’s car seat on the top of the car and then driving off. That’s not funny, even for comedy purposes.

Overall, this movie was disappointing. I enjoyed the carefree, playful style of it, but not the contents. It wasn’t really all that funny, even though it was a typical farce (hmm, maybe you need screaming people for one of those?) and I think I’d be happier to re-watch one of the other aforementioned Coen Brothers films.

2 stolen babies out of 5.

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