Sunday, April 2, 2017

Raising Arizona is 30 years old

I was looking for a movie on my DVR that I hadn't blogged about before, and which is in print on DVD, to do a full-length post on. (And, I didn't feel like sitting down with any of the well over two-hour movies on the DVR.) I wound up picking Raising Arizona, and it just happens that the 30th anniversary of the release is coming up in a few weeks.

Nicolas Cage plays H.I. McDunnough, a career criminal, if you can call it a career since he's still so young. But he's been in and out and in and out of prison a bunch of times. Every time, he's booked into prison by booking officer Edwina, nicknamed "Ed" (Holly Hunter). Eventually, H.I. gets so enamored of Ed that he proposes marriage to her while being booked, pointing out that he actually paid for the ring. In prison, H.I. meets fellow repeat offenders, brothers Gale and Evelle Snopes (John Goodman and William Forsythe respectively).

After proposing marriage to Ed, H.I. decides that he's going to try to go straight, living in a starter house with Ed and getting a legitimate, if boring, job in a machine shop. Ed, for her part, wants to have a child, and the two go about tring to get Ed pregnant. But it turns out that she's barren, which causes all sorts of problems. Adoption isn't an option what with H.I.'s criminal past. Contrast them with Nathan Arizona and his wife. Nathan, a magnate in unfinished furniture, had been trying to start a family with a similar lack of success, but was able to get his wife on fertility drugs. This resulted in Mrs. Arizona giving birth... to quintuplets!

Ed reasons that, if there are people who have "too many" children like the Arizonas and others with "not enough" children, there's an obvious solution, which is to take one of the children from the family with too many and give it to the other family. Of course, what this means in practice is kidnapping, and Ed gets H.I. to kidnap one of the Arizona quints.

It sets off a whole chain of problems. H.I. loses his job, meaning that he's forced to start robbing convenience stores again to get the things the baby needs. Another couple, who have been able to adopt chilren, want an infant and wouldn't mind taking the Arizona kid that H.I. and Ed kidnapped. Gale and Evelle break out of prison and show up at the McDunnoughs' front door unannounced one night. And then there's bounty hunter Leonard Smalls (Randall "Tex" Cobb), who knows how to find people and wants that $25,000 reward that Nathan put up for the safe return of his child.

This is all a premise for a wild farce. To be honest, however, I found large parts of the movie to be zany in an over-the-top way that personally didn't suit me. Everybody seems to do a pretty good job with their roles; I think it's more that the script requires them to be zany. Leonard, the bounty hunter, is also written as a really irritating character. So is the father in the family with the adoptive children, who takes to telling Polish jokes that just make you want to smack the guy. He's not funny at all.

This is one of the earliest movies from Joel and Ethan Coen, and I wonder if they were still learning their style while they were making this movie. Overall, it's a pretty good movie, but that are parts that will probably irritate some people. The Coens certainly seemed more polished by the time they made Fargo a decade later.

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