Not many filmmakers know how to make a decent ensemble piece anymore. Most of the time, such attempt at ensemble casting end up producing a cast full of individuals, rather than a tight knit, finely oiled bit of ensemble.
Big Trouble is a cast of individuals, starring more stars than even last year's abortive Rat Race could boast. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, the mind behind Men in Black and Get Shorty, Big Trouble is the story of 12 people whose lives are changed by a mysterious and valuable suitcase. OK, it's a bomb. A nuclear bomb. Maybe that's a spoiler, but if you haven't figured out 5 minutes into the movie what it is, then you aren't smart enough to be reading this review. Might I recommend a more dumbed down site? Perhaps The Movie Chicks? Those who remain should know that whoever wrote this mess seems to THINK we don't know what is in the suitcase, even though from moment one those unnamed scriptwriters have gone out of their way to beat us over the head with that simple fact.
Starring Tim Allen might have meant something once... back when he was churning out hits like The Santa Clause and Galaxy Quest. Since then he's gone nowhere, and few seem to care if he even still exists. Well he does, and he's in Big Trouble as the father of a semi-rebellious, but fairly well meaning teenage son whom he seems to do a bit more complaining about than the kid actually warrants. He narrates the film in telling the tale of, among others, a homeless hippie named Puggy (Jason Lee), an over-sexed cop (Patrick Wharburton), a bored and mistreated housewife (Renee Russo), and a massively overweight FBI agent (Heavy D).
They all get caught up in something which heretofore will be referred to as "the plot". This leads to exactly what you'd expect from this type of movie, chase scenes, running through crowded streets, and screaming. This actually becomes a little disturbing towards the end, when the film seems to go out of it's way to show the total incompetence of airport security. This might have been funny in a pre-9/11 world, now it's just in bad taste. Actually, most of the last half hour is pretty much in bad taste, and not all that funny. Fortunately, the first hour, while is also in fairly bad taste, IS quite funny, even though I almost feel guilty laughing at such a truly bad script.
But, in the end, any film that makes me laugh gets a few brownie points, and Big Trouble at least did that. Each little character has his moment in the sun and all put their comedic talents to good use. Patrick Wharburton has to be one of the most unacknoweledged comedic actors of our time. He's good for a lot more than just Seinfeld's David Putty. Give me more! Even Andy Richter's brief security guard cameos are golden moments, well worth the ticket price even on their own. Even Tim Allen manages to be fairly funny, in a fatherly, ambiguous way. Only Renee Russo contributes little to the fun, since her main role in any movie these days is just to well, what IS her role anyway? Replace her with a cardboard standup next time. Cheaper and younger. Doesn't matter, Janeane Garofalo is there to pick up the slack in femenine humor. Russo is a spare.
This cast doesn't work particularly well together, a fact which none of them seems to notice. But Director Barry Sonnefeld at least finds a way to make them hilarious as individuals, eliciting quite a few genuine laughs out of his poorly meshed group of skilled comedic actors; though they are thrust into an ill conceived script without merit or risk. If you can stand to overlook it's nearly insulting pre-9/11 mentality, Big Trouble is bound to deliver at least a few big yucks.