Thursday 17 June 2010

Obscurity Files #11 - Nothing But Trouble

SLACKER Obscurity Files aims to put the spotlight onto a series of films that time and audiences have otherwise forgotten. With MacGruber in cinemas this weekend, we thought we'd look at another film from some former Saturday Night Live cast members. Today it's Dan Aykroyd's directorial debut, Nothing But Trouble.
More after the jump...

Financial publisher Chris Thorne (Chevy Chase) promises to take the beautiful Diane (Demi Moore) on a romantic weekend away to Atlantic City. But after being caught speeding in the small hamlet of Valkenvania, they're hauled in front of the decrepit and spiteful Judge Alvin Valkenheiser (Dan Aykroyd under about a ton of latex).  When the judge puts them under house arrest in his gadget filled mansion/court house, can these big city types escape with their egos and heads attached?

Operating somewhere between Wallace & Gromit's home improvement gadgetries and a torture chamber funhouse, the Judge's home is quite ghoulish. There's human remains everywhere, and adds to the film basic retelling of the plot of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre; a group of people choose the wrong route through a small town and end up being terrorised by the inhabitants. Judge Valkenheiser is essentially the Grandfather of the Sawyer family, which makes John Candy our substitute Leatherface. As to whether they're a family of cannibals, there's a delightful dinner scene that offers a few clues.

In a bizarre divergence from the story, a hip-hop group caught doing 75 in a 50 zone get brought before the judge. This has absolutely nothing to do with the plot and doesn't drive proceedings along at all, except that maybe it's a chance for Dan Aykroyd to show that he's down with the kids. He's not far off to be honest; Is this really the world's introduction to Tupac Shakur?

Chevy Chase just isn't really given enough to do. It's hard to call him the lead when Aykroyd gives his own grotesque judge so much screen time. It's a shame Aykroyd didn't show a bit more kindness to his supposed leading man, never really giving Chevy the opportunity to shine. The pair had of course worked together on the first series of Saturday Night Live, and also appeared together in big screen outings such as Spies Like Us and Caddyshack 2, but I'd wager that Chase regrets appearing in this mess for his former colleague.

Although it's not just this film's fault, this really was the turning point of Chevy's career. In years previous he had been the lead in Fletch and Christmas Vacation, but when he followed this film with the underwhelming 1992 John Carpenter film Memoirs of an Invisible Man, he never fully recovered.

Demi Moore was white hot in popularity having appeared in Ghost the year before, and although she must have took a bit of a knock with this film, she had A Few Good Men and Indecent Proposal just around the corner. Poor John Candy gets royally shafted by this film. His small town Sheriff has to be the straight man to everyones tomfoolery, and in his alternate role as his own dowdy sister he's rendered mute. He's nothing more than the chubby guy here, and he's not given any decent scenes or even lines. Hardly the way to treat a comedy icon like Candy.

This film revels in its own grotesquery, as can be seen with the introduction of Bobo and L'il Debbull. They're two big fat sweaty babies with more than a generous helping of Sloth from the Goonies thrown in.

Dan Aykroyd had previously scripted The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters to much acclaim, but this was his first time in the director's chair and after the abysmal performance of this film, his last time in the director's chair. According to Box Office Mojo, the budget for this complete mess was $40 million, so I'm sure the domestic gross of $8.4 million was not quite what Warner Bros. was hoping for. It had the widest release on the Valentine's weekend of 1991, but was pummeled by Silence Of The Lambs, and although that film is of much better quality, it's not the kind of film you'd immediately expect couples to go and see. Apparently this film was shunted out of its Halloween of 1990 spot to allow the studio to remove all traces of gore, but I'm confused as to how they thought they could sell it as a romantic comedy.

The story is terrible, and is really just a showcase for fat guy make-up. You'll have to ask Eddie Murphy about this, but in my opinion resorting to multiple roles and 'fat guy falls down, makes funny' jokes is the last refuge of a desperate man.

It's a vanity project of the worst kind, but it probably wouldn't have been any more watchable in the hands of a better director. Saying that though, Aykroyd's inexperience shows and I'm not surprised that this is his solo directorial outing. I'm sure his under used cast would rather have this expunged from their filmographies too.

Save from Obscurity? NO.

1 comment:

  1. From what I've watched of it, you're right not to save it!
    Love your obscurity files!