Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wacky, Wild, and Fun: The Coens Raise Arizona with Nicolas Cage.

Movie Review: Raising Arizona

Director:  Joel and Ethan Coen

Reviewed: 14 December 2013

jamesintexas rating-- ***1/2

"Its a crazy world."

"Someone ought to sell tickets."

"Sure, I'd buy one."

In Raising Arizona, a sun-drenched Looney Tunes cartoon of a movie, The Coen Brothers have created a breakneck comedy involving the abduction of the baby of furniture magnate Nathan Arizona by the lovable H.I. (Nicolas Cage) and his wife Edwina (Holly Hunter). The opening scenes outline how H.I. and Ed came to be a couple (she is the police officer that shoots his prison photos; he pledges his love to her when he gets out of the joint), and their struggles to become parents takes over the thrust of the plot. Upon seeing Nathan Arizona's newly born quintuplets in the paper (quote from Nathan: "We have more than we can handle!"), the couple decides to take one off of his hands. This decision sets in motion the law, some escaped prisoner friends of HI's (John Goodman and William Forsythe), the lone biker of the apocalypse, and a madcap run through a grocery store in pursuit of Huggies.

The film is in love with itself, offering wonderfully baroque speeches and narration to its characters while also displaying an effortless whimsy about its movements. The soundtrack is laugh out loud hilarious, and the film reaches into some sweet places at the end while never losing its core. The performances are particularly strong with Holly Hunter all intense energy and fire juxtaposed against the eye-popping, crazy-hair-having, and face-contorting of Nicolas Cage. Cage is phenomenal here, owning nearly every scene and doing quite a bit of physical comedy. He seems game for anything. The film contains its own little universe of personalities, symbols, and logic, and I found myself smiling while watching. It feels like you are in good hands, hands that know how to tell the story with a well-placed camera, sharp dialogue, and a joy for the task.

A comedy is a difficult task to pull off, but I feel that nearly every scene in Raising Arizona works well enough to earn a laugh and a smile. What more can you ask for in a film?

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