Tag Archives: Nicholas Cage

Raising Arizona (1987)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Childless couple kidnap baby.

Hi McDunnough (Nicholas Cage) is a repeat offender who goes in and out of the state penitentiary. It is there that he meets Edwina (Holly Hunter) an officer in charge of taking his mugshot each time he gets rearrested for holding up convenience stores. Eventually the two form a bond and when he finally gets released they marry, but find that she’s unable to bear children. They then hatch a plan to kidnap one of the quintuplets of furniture store owner Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson), but find this leads to more complications than they were prepared for.

While the Coen’s directing is sharp and on-target there were still those that criticized it as being overly stylistic and, as critic Vincent Canby stated, outside of the technical expertise the story has no life of it’s own, which is kind of true. The editing does give the film a personality, but there were times where slowing it down and allowing the scenes to breathe could’ve heightened the humor. For instance having Cage break into the Arizona residence to kidnap the baby happens much too quickly and there should’ve been a scene showing Cage trying to figure out which window to break into to get to the baby’s nursery as it was a big house, so how exactly would he have known where to go?

With that said there are still plenty of times where the distinct directorial touches spark the comedy and make it years ahead-of-its-time. I particularly liked the Coen’s patented camera tracking during Cage’s dream sequence where he views things from the bounty hunter’s (Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb) perspective as he rides his motorbike over obstacles on the front lawn and then supposedly straight into a bedroom. A chase sequence that starts out on the street and then winds up going through a person’s private residence is quite ingenious and the running-joke dealing Dr. Spock’s child rearing book is very funny too.

The script offers only caricatures, which would normally be a detriment, but here it just adds to the zaniness. I really enjoyed Wilson as the stereotypical aggressive, brash salesman and the scene where he talks to the police after the kidnapping has occurred I found to be the funniest moment of the movie. John Goodman and William Forsythe are also great as a pair of inept bank robbers and Sam McMurray and Frances McDormand are hilarious as the in-laws from hell.

Spoiler Alert!

My only real grievance, and it’s on a minor level, was the kidnap scenario, which could’ve been played-out more. I also thought it was weird that this rich couple would have all these kids and not hire a nanny to help them care for the babies. It’s a head-scratcher too that when Cage and Hunter decide to return the baby that they were able to break-into the same window that they did before. Wouldn’t you think that after a kidnapping this rich couple would’ve implemented crime alarms and cameras in ever room? Also, Nathan Arizona, catches the couple in the bedroom returning the kid to his crib and then after talking to them a bit he leaves the room with Cage and Hunter still with the baby, but you would think that after they took the kid once that the father would be too paranoid to ever leave the baby alone with them again.

The ending in typical Coen fashion doesn’t equal the same energy and imagination as the rest of the story and is a bit of a letdown. It deals with a dream that Cage has where he imagines having a really big family, but I thought it would’ve been funnier had the dream started out pleasant where he thinks about all the good things about family life only to have it slowly deteriorate into a nightmare where the harsh realities of raising kids come into play making him wake-up in a cold sweat and feeling lucky that they couldn’t have children after all.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: April 17, 1987

Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Valley Girl (1983)

valley girl

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Like totally, for sure.

Julie (Deborah Foreman) is a popular teen who is attracted to Randy (Nicholas Cage) who is not a part of her snotty clique. Stacey (Heidi Holicker) and Suzi (Michelle Meyrink) are her friends who want her to go back to dating the two-timing Tommy (Michael Bowen) even though she gets along with Randy far better. Her hippie parents (Frederic Forrest, Colleen Camp) aren’t sure what advice to give her, so she’s forced to choose between her friends and true-love while being threatened with ostracism if she goes out with the ‘wrong guy’.

The film was inspired by the Frank Zappa song, which is far funnier than anything that goes on here. The song had Zappa’s 14-year-old daughter Moon Unit putting on a fake southern California accent and speaking in a valley-speak lingo, which was right on-target. Here though we don’t get any of that. The girls only do the valley-speak thing at the very beginning and then it’s dropped and becomes just a pedestrian story of ordinary teens doing very ordinary teen-like things.

To me a valley girl represented a rich, plastic, entitled teen insulated from real-world issues who charged their Daddy’s credit card like it was a hobby and felt they were ‘too cool’ to work and more concerned with the latest teen fashions than anything else and yet the lead character here doesn’t represent any of this and in fact is the complete opposite.

The cast is also way too old for their roles. Foreman was already 21 and Bowen was 30! In fact none of the lead cast is of the right age range for their characters and making it look much more like college students or even young adults than high school. The party scenes are lame with the kids dancing like zombies moving their bodies in a robotic fashion with no sense or feel to the music or beat. The whole thing lacks hipness and comes off like a mild, sanitized concoction created by middle-aged adults far removed from the teen scene and unable to recreate it in any effective type of way.

Forrest and Camp are mildly amusing as the parents, but aging hippies running some backwoods type health food store probably wouldn’t be able to afford living in the valley let alone getting along with their more elitist neighbors. I was also disappointed that the Lee Purcell character just disappears without any denouncement. She plays Suzie’s very hot-looking mother, and with the possible exception of Foreman is quite easily the best looking member of the cast, who comes-on to one of her daughter’s guy friends (David Ensor) only to later catch the two in bed together, but what should’ve been a funny and lively confrontation and aftermath never gets addressed, which is a letdown.

On a purely romantic level the film could be considered ‘cute’ and the soundtrack has some cool tunes, but the story lacks oomph and fails to take advantage of the true valley girl persona ending up seeming more like just a mild ‘80s update of Gidget instead.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: April 29, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: Martha Coolidge

Studio: Atlantic Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD