Raising Arizona (1987)

 

It's love!
It's love!

Genre: Adventure Crime Comedy

Starring: Nicholas Cage (Vampire's KissLord of War), Holly Hunter (Broadcast NewsThe Piano)

Directed By: The Coen Brothers (Fargo  No Country For Old Men)

Overview: A bumbling career criminal falls in love with his mug shot photographer. They get married with hopes of raising a family, but discover that they cannot have children, and no adoption agency will accept them as candidates for parenthood. Meanwhile, famous unpainted furniture mogul Nathan Arizona's wife has just given birth to quintuplets. The Arizonas couldn't possibly miss just one of those babies, could they?

Before the credits appear, we explore H.I. McDunnough and his in-front-of-the-camera (front and side view) love affair with police mug-shot photographer Edwina. To an annoyingly perfect yodeling soundtrack we see a montage of the ebb and flow of years of H.I.'s prison life, short-lived unsuccessful criminal life, and return to prison life. Through it all he falls for his missus and proposes marriage. She agrees, as long as he goes straight, and they drive off into the sunset, followed by the film's title. Eight minutes of wacky gold… in my opinion. The story itself revolves around this barren couple's desire for children, and because of H.I's criminal record, no one will let them adopt. Enter Nathan Arizona, a wealthy father of newborn quints. Combine this, a ladder on a late night and Edwina's burning desire for motherhood, and those quints quickly become quads... maybe I should have worded that differently... Anyhoo, from this point on, we explore the police investigation, the friendly drop-in from H.I. escaped convict friends, the search for Nathan Junior by outlaw mercenary Leonard Smalls, and of course the weird trailer-park family that is H.I., his wife 'Ed', and little Nathan Junior.

The cinematography impressed me most of all, with its frequent use of fisheye shots, rapid-fire editing, and overall style, with Cage's character never to be found with proper hair. Coen Brothers' staple John Goodman exuded his usual wonderful presence. In fact, I wish I'd seen more of him. Of course the movie is crazy insane and does indeed have a predictable plot, yet for as over-the-top screwball comedy this was, might I also interject that it was an over-the-top screwball comedy?

That's the biker merc who's after them, not the baby they kidnap.


That's the biker merc who's after them, not the baby they kidnap.


Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 7 Plot: 7 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 76% (Got A Rise Out Of Me)
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Aftertaste:

recently added Raising Arizona to the top of my rental queue because of the 1001 Club. When I kicked the club back into action, I quickly compiled a best and worst page of the club's previous reviews. Raising Arizona currently sits in the best of the worst pile, tied with Vampyr. The moment that poster went up on my page, declaring itself proudly as a 1001 stinker, there were a couple of dissenting voices of amazement. I didn't review it the first time this was assigned last year, and because of thlow score and the recent "you've gotta be kidding me" comments, I decided to review this one sooner than later. Now that I've seen it, I wonder what people hated so much as to score it so poorly.

In my explorations, I've heard and read so many people, from friends to 1001 clubbers to other randoms going off on how inane this film was, nay, is. I suppose I can see it if I squint. The movie is plain stupidity, no doubt about it, but it's on purpose. No, it is not the Coen Brothers' best film. It's not a period piece, it's not Barton Fink / Fargo slick, it's not epic grandeur as showcased in the cinematography of The Big Lebowski and Hudsucker Proxy, but it's the Coens' second film. Raising Arizona definitely has something of value.

Despite having an incredible 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a better than average 7.5 on IMDb, our 1001 Must See Club spoke of this with so much disdain that I was looking forward to ranting about it in my review. Sadly, I instead found an innocuously pleasant, entertaining couple hours, as well as a reminder to add The Hudsucker Proxy to the good ol' queue. Personally, I found this to be more entertaining than the recently viewed A Serious Man, and certainly better than the detestable O Brother, Where Art Thou? It was also fun to see such a huge pile of Coen regulars in this one including Goodman, Frances McDormand of Fargo fame, and a plethora of tertiary characters all in the same room, even sometimes, talking about their feelings. Sure, you might indeed hate it, but there's so much worse out there, and I unfortunately must side with all the club members who somehow didn't get around to reviewing and rating this one. In short, Raising Arizona doesn't deserve to stand next to Marnie and Top Gun as undesirables.

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As the only person currently rating this film above a 7, I obviously agree with a lot of what you say here. Is my high score a reaction to the low scores of others? Perhaps. But Raising Arizona deserves better than its current fate.

Is it the best Coen movie? Hardly. Perhaps the backlash against this film is that it is one of their earlier ones, and was followed by so many great films. Maybe our expectations are raised by their subsequent career (unlike you, I really like O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Twist my arm, and I'll say that their only miss--the only Coen movie that falls below an 8 for me is The Ladykillers.

Ah, well. Even with your review it will languish in the bottom 5. It makes me want to choose a real stinkbomb the next time it's my choice, if only to get this one over the proverbial hump. 


It's funny how movie tastes are personnal. Because I really enjoyed this Coen Bros farce. I though it was the same kind of funny as The Big Lebowski. Maybe not as funny... Raising Arizona goes along its ideas and that one thing I really liked about it. It's weird, it's stupid, and it's the kind of film that makes me laugh. Once again it depicts middle-to-lower class Americans with a little kind contempt.
I'll need to watch it again to submit my review for the 1001 Club!

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