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Raising Arizona (1987)

  Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Written by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Nicolas Cage, John Goodman, Holly Hunter
Links: Raising Arizona on the IMDb, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 6.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Raising Arizona (1987) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Dirt (2001) and em_fiction's review of The Man Who Wasn't There (2001).

"Better than if the Coens hadn't made it, but…" - a review by mino

What amazes me about the films of Ethan Coen and Joel Coen — and I know I've mentioned this before, probably more than once — is how they can tackle different styles of movie almost effortlessly. I mean, there are certain similarities between their films, and without exception they're all quite funny, even when they're a murder mystery or a gangland caper. But even so, they're all very different. The Coens make tackling totally disparate genres look easy, and that's what makes them two of the best filmmakers around today.

Nicolas Cage plays H.I. McDunnough, a good-for-nothing petty crim who falls for Edwina, the police officer who has to take his mugshot every time he's brought in. They run off and get married, and H.I. goes more-or-less straight. Alas, tragedy strikes when they find out they're infertile, and clucky Edwina doesn't take it well. Luckily for them, a local businessman makes the news when his wife has quintuplets, and H.I. and ‘Ed’ decide to help themselves to one, figuring that the couple can make do with four.

It all goes surprisingly well, until two of H.I.'s old crim buddies (one of whom is Coen favourite John Goodman) turn up and invite themselves in as house-guests. They do their best to corrupt the now-clean-living H.I., and Ed's not happy. Add in the enormous reward offered by the missing quint's father, and the rather frightening bounty hunter who's determined to collect it, and things soon turn very grim for H.I.

Raising Arizona is certainly not, in my opinion, the best Coen Brothers film — or even close to it. This is possibly because the genre they tackle here is closest to your ‘screwball slapstick’ than any of their other films, and ‘screwball slapstick’ isn't exactly my favourite genre, unless it's done exceedingly well. There's a wonderful quirkiness to the comedy in Arizona which is better than most movies of this type, but even so, I find it a little flat. It has some truly great moments — including one of the better car chases you'll ever see — and some equally wonderful quotes (‘Do these [balloons] blow into funny shapes and all?’ ‘Well, no, unless round is funny.’) but on the whole I just couldn't find myself enjoying the characters, which is where the Coen films are the strongest. This possibly wasn't helped by the fact that Cage isn't exactly my favourite actor in the world, and Holly Hunter, who plays Ed, isn't real high on the list either. The characters seem a little too one-dimensional for the Coens, and that makes the whole thing a bit less effective.

You'll see worse comedies than Raising Arizona, but you'll certainly see better ones too. Enjoy it as one more entry in the Coen pantheon, but it's certainly not their best.

mino gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 24 Sep 2004

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