Raising Arizona

March 4, 2010
The Coen brothers have a reputation when it comes to their sense of humor. It's screwball-like, dark, and often a mixture of the two. While I've only seen one of the Coens' more comedic films, The Big Lebowski, I loved how smart and wacky it is. So, I expected more of the same from the Coens' early comedy film, Raising Arizona. What I got, however, was a film where the jokes overstayed their welcome and a film that almost felt like veiled elitism.

The story follows Herbert I. "Hi" McDunnough, a petty criminal whose only talent seems to be robbing convenience stores. It's not until Hi meets Edwina "Ed", a policewoman, that he decides to give up his criminal ways and settle down in life. After an undisclosed amount of time, the two decide to have children...only to find out that Ed is, in actuality, infertile. Upon hearing that furniture magnate Nathan Arizona's wife, Dot, has just given birth to five babies, the couple decides to steal one of the children to raise as their own.

I usually detest Nicolas Cage's acting but, surprisingly, I have to admit I actually liked him here. He wasn't embarrassingly over-the-top or ridiculously cheesy, he just seemed to fit into his character very naturally. I liked all of the characters, really, but I wouldn't say I thought they were 'great' or 'fantastic'. Regardless, there isn't one bad performance in Raising Arizona as the film has a very talented cast - John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, Frances McDormand, etc.

Sadly, though, this film doesn't live up to the Coen brothers' name. It's got some witty humor in it, but a lot of the gags tend to overstay their welcome. For instance, how many times can a bizarre baby-napper/biker be considered funny because of how weird he is? Or, why does the film insist on using the same, unfunny catchphrases ("Imma gonna kick somebody's butt") ? The film does have some good quotes, and the first twenty minutes are just great, but Raising Arizona really goes downhill after a bit.

Also, I'm one for wacky characters and all, but this film's depiction of Southerners just feels downright insulting. I don't usually care about this kind of stuff, because it's done in good taste most of the time, but it's ridiculous here. I'm not a redneck, and I certainly detest Southern ignorance, but this film goes way too far. The Coens just come off as snobbish and elitist here, which is pretty sad.

This is a decent comedy, though it showcases none of the elements usually associated with a Coen brothers film. It's got a few great lines, and some great performances, but the script leaves something to be desired. The gags stretch out for far too long, and the stereotypes make the filmmakers seem snobby. Overall, it's just ok...

6/10 - Fair

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