Okay, strap yourself in and prepare for the worst because this is going to get messy. Ordinarily on this site I only review films that I love or at the very least like but this one was a true patience tester and without doubt one of the least funny comedies I've ever seen. I can only guess that Chevy Chase took the lead role as a favour to Dan Aykroyd, he can't possibly have read the script and agreed to it (unless he was desperate for cash). Nothing But Trouble was the brain child of Dan Aykroyd (who directs and plays two roles) and his brother Peter. Now we all know Aykroyd is a little bit of an oddball character. He's a devout spiritualist and seems to genuinely believe in a lot of supernatural phenomena. This served him very well when writing the Ghostbusters movies but here he unleashes a torrent of such bizarre, ugly characters and storylines that at times I felt physical ill.
film sees Chase play Chris Thorne, a financial advisor who takes a road
trip with two of his wealthy clients and his neighbor Diane (Demi
Moore). Aiming to get to Atlantic City as fast as possible they take a
short cut through an eerie ghost town called Valkenvania. However, they
over the speed limit and the local sheriff tries to flag them down but
stupidly they attempt to out run him. This only makes matters worse and
eventually they are all arrested and taken to the town's Judge (Dan
Aykroyd under a ton of old man make-up) where they discover that they
won't be able to just "pay a fine and leave". The judge and his in-bred
family of weirdos have a far stricter sense of justice, sending most
lawbreakers straight to a meat grinder called Mr Bonestripper! So the
group split up and try to escape the town by any means but it's far
harder than it looks.
I think the problem with this film is that
any comedy elements seemed to have been added in at a very late stage in
the film development. Bar a few ad libs from Chase and some of the
grotesque make-up work there's very little humour in the story.
According to Aykroyd the idea for the film came from a personal
experience from 1978 where he was pulled over for speeding in a hick
forced to plead in front of an elderly judge. Here he's adapted the
story writ large. The town is literally like the stuff of nightmares
decorated with broken machinery and human bones. In actual fact
Valkenvania is based on a real life ghost town called Centralia, Pennsylvania, where an underground coal fire has warped the landscape
and ousted its townfolk since the fire first sparked in the 1960s. I guess you
could argue that this adds up to a rich back story but unfortunately
Aykroyd seems content to just show us this stuff, not actual use any of
it to tell an interesting story. The whole plot basically boils down to
Chase and Moore get pulled over, see the judge, they escape and come
back later with the state police. That's it. There's no revelations or
twists or character arcs or anything.
None of the actors apart
from Aykroyd seem to really be very invested in their characters. John
Candy plays the role of police sheriff as a nice ordinary guy which
jars with the rest of the townsfolk. He also gets to play another role
in drag as Eldona, the judge's mute daughter which doesn't work either.
Chase just looks kind of confused throughout the entire running time. He
tries a couple of his usual wiseass comebacks now and then (some which
seem to have been messily added in post) but the scenario is so odd he
can't make any laughs happen. There's also meant to be a burgeoning
romance between him and Moore but the two have very little chemistry and
their kiss at the end seems very weird given their age gap. Another
couple of actors who I haven't gone into much detail yet is Taylor
Negron and Bertila Damas who play Chase's wealthy Brazilian clients. I
honestly can't see any point of these characters, they escape early on
and manage to convince Candy to come with them and that's the extent of
their subplot. It's baffling to include two
characters so prominently and then give them absolutely nothing to do.
Also Negron overplays his role was a screeching effeminate voice that
will make you reach straight for the mute button.
And so to
Aykroyd. What can I say? He clearly loves acting under lathers of
make-up. It's obviously freeing for an actor but as Eddie Murphy will
tell you, it doesn't make your film any funnier. The Judge is a truly
oddball creation and clearly Aykroyd thought the more grotesque he made
him the funnier it would be. So he ends up giving him not only a
prosthetic leg but also a prosthetic nose - which is shaped like a penis
if you look close (on second thought, don't bother). Aykroyd other role
is Bobo, an enormously fat man child in a diaper who along with his
twin brother L'il Debbull tries to help Moore escape. Once again I
cannot begin to fathom what Aykroyd was thinking by included these
mentally retarded caricatures. Were we supposed to laugh at
The film basically veers all over the place and one of the
most bizarre subplots (which basically acts as a time filler) is when a
group of black rappers are also pulled over and brought before the
judge. I guess you're meant to think that this old white judge will no
doubt convict them straight away but they decide to launch into a four
minute rap which culminates with the Judge joining in on his organ. Now I
know Aykroyd likes his music by why the hell was there a musical
interlude in this of all films? Also, one of rappers faces will be very
familiar because... it's the late Tupac Shakur!
Okay, I think I've
talked enough about this film. It's one long, painful trainwreck and
Chase got 'nothing but trouble' for taking it on. His comedic persona is based around
being a cocky wiseass outsider who infuriates any person in authority (see Caddyshack).
But here all the control is put in the Judge's hands. Aykroyd
essentially got all his actors friends, Chase and Candy but
failed to give them the roles they excel at. Candy is great at playing a
lovable slobs so why put him in drag? This isn't the first time Aykroyd
has done this. He also made Neighbors in the early 80s, a similarly dark
and humorless movie that wasted John Belushi. Anyway, I guess in some
ways, you've got to applaud Chase for trying something new. It's just
shame that he picked this movie.
Next time: We conclude our brief look at Chase's career with Memoirs of an Invisible Man.
Bonus fun fact: There's actually a band from Glasgow (now sadly defunct) called Dananananaykroyd.
Second bonus fun fact: Dan Aykroyd owns and runs a company that sells vodka in bottles that are shaped like Crystal Skulls! Check it out.