Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The flops of Chevy Chase part 2: Nothing But Trouble (1991)

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.

The 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 accidentally go 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 town and 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 them?

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.


  1. What can I say! I know this is a bad movie, I know it, I mean somethings in it simply do not work, but for some reason the film has grown on me to the point where I even like the scene with the rappers singing..."all around the world" The scene feels like it comes completely out of nowhere, but I guess it's there to show us that the judge isnt completely heartless, he knows how to have fun too.

    I like the Bone Ripper scenes, that was a cool machine..

    I hate the giant baby monsters...the make up effects are cool at times, but as a whole it just didnt work.

    I do like the house, the way it looks inside, and how it feels like a fun house of terror or something.

    And the Brazilians make me laugh when they go nuts and call people "funky, mysanthropic, co-dependent", basically, I love that whole dinner sequence when chevy says "A nice tall glass of warm Kool Aid" ha ha I'm laughing as I type, he he..

    But I know I'm in the minority here, agree, not at all a perfect movie, but I like some aspects of it. The part I hate the most is the last shot, the one with the cartoon cut out on the what a terrible way to finish the movie!

  2. Hey Franco, that's cool. I'm glad it floats your boat. We all have a few critically savaged films that we love regardless. One of my embarassing guilty pleasures is Super Mario Brothers!

    I think maybe if I'd seen this at a younger age I may have overlooked some of its flaws. But watching it fresh at 28 it really struck me as... muddled, ugly and misguided.

    I'll agree the house was cool, as was the bonestripper. The set design was probably the best aspect, I just wish it had better comedy scenes to back it up. It needed someone like Tim Burton or Barry Sonnenfeld to shepherd it. Both of them are excellent at dark gothic humour.

    Oh, and yeah that cartoon ending where he jumps through the wall was horrid. It stuck me as something the studio maybe requested to emphasis the cartoonish comedy of it all.

  3. Super Mario Bros. is loathed by almost everybody, I personally don't love it, but at the same time it's got its moments. It was a huge production, just such a messy one! The stories behind that movie are crazy!

    I hear what you say about the comedy on NOthing But Trouble, it's not super ha ha ha funny, but I do find some comedy in it. Agree with you about adding funny quotes to the movie on post, you can really tell they dubbed some jokes into it at some points.

    On an unrelated note, I'm watching this movie right now called the ONe Man A-Team...he he he...funny stuff! I guess you understand DIY, I do a lot of it myself, but with zombies! Congrats man, always a pleasure to meet a fellow DIY filmmaker. I thought it funny that you use the same guy over and over and over...

  4. Thanks man, glad The One Man A-Team gave you chuckle. Yeah Mitch (the one actor) was a real good sport for playing all the roles. I think he enjoyed playing Mr T a little too much.

    Yeah DIY filmmaking is a lot of fun. It gives you a lot of understanding for how big budget films are made. You get a sense of all the work involved - storyboarding, shot composition, putting together props, shepherding actors, special effects, securing locations, etc. I think it's what makes me love cheap DTV films a bit more than most people.

    I noticed on your blog that you've done some movies too. Cannabis Cannibal 1 + 2. There's a few clips floating around but my Spanish isn't too hot I'm afraid. Love to do a zombie film at some point, the gore effects must be a lot of fun to do.

  5. Oh yeah, it's fun, but it also complicates things. I needed about ten zombies one day, and only had three make up people, but cool thing was that everybody chipped in. The end result was fun though. Exodus was really the one I am most proud of, currently working on the script for the third entry in the "franchise"; it's going to be called Cannabis Cannibal Forever!

    I would love to make a big time movie, with a bit more money, but thats the hard part of filmmaking, getting the dough!

  6. I have very fond memories of this film, because it is one of my old friends absolute favorite films ever, and because I personally loathed it at the time. I just didn't get it. I didn't know if it was supposed to be funny, or scary, or trippy or whatever. It was just all over the place, and not in a good way. I thought Aykroyd just finally got a chance to let out all his crazy fascinations and threw it all into Nothing But Trouble. And I have to agree, I think Chase, Candy and Moore only appear in this as a favor to there good friend because nobody in there right mind would if they had read the script. Or maybe they did but felt bad about saying no to there friend and did it anyway, as a favor. Who knows?

    I haven't seen this since it first hit VHS, so I don't know if I'd loathe it the same way I did back then, so maybe I should be brave and give it a wash. As kinda like a science experiment. lol.

    Great review buddy! Entertaining and funny as hell. Keep it up!

  7. Yeah, I'll watch Chase in almost anything but this was a real slog. Don't know if I'll ever go back and watch it again. Apart from some interesting set design there's not a lot I want to see again.

    Give it a go if you're feeling nostalgic though! Like I said, maybe if I'd seen it at a younger age my feeling might be different. I might be willing to overlook it's messy nature.

  8. I quite like Chevy Chase but I'll pass on this one as it sounds pretty bad. I feel that bad comedies are tougher to get through than bad other movies as it can be hard to make fun of them as the two main responses are "that isn't funny" or "was that supposed to be funny?." I'm looking forward to your next review as I am a big John Carpenter fan and actually have not seen that one yet.

  9. Yeah, bad comedies suck way more than bad action films or bad dramas. Chase has done way better stuff than this that you should check out instead - Spies Like Us, Three Amigos, Seems Like Old Times, Foul Play, Funny Farm (maybe), Vacation, Christmas Vacation, Caddyshack (1 not 2) and Fletch.

  10. This is an awesome stoner movie - You got a Beemer, Act like it!)

  11. This is absolutely one of my favorite funny movies. As much as a mess the whole film is it somehow seems to come together at the end . Love chevy chase and dan akroyd is hilarious, so is the brazillionare siblings lol