Friday, April 5, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

Ensemble cast gets into 'Big Trouble' with little laughs

Seattle Times movie critic

"Big Trouble"

With Tim Allen, Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, Tom Sizemore, Zooey Deschanel, Janeane Garofalo, Patrick Warburton. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, from a screenplay by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, based on the novel by Dave Barry. 85 minutes. Rated PG-13 for language, crude humor and sex-related material. Several theaters.
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What a difference eight months make. Or don't make, as the case may be.

Way back before Sept. 11, Barry Sonnenfeld's new film, "Big Trouble," was scheduled for a September release. World events intervened and the film was yanked from the fall schedule, due to its lengthy comedic sequence in which a bomb is smuggled through airport security detectors and onto a plane. Now it's back, changed not a whit. Trouble is, "Trouble" wasn't funny then, and it's not funny now.

Tim Allen, in yet another cinematic opportunity to display his regular-guy blandness, is at the center of a large ensemble cast. He's Eliot Arnold, a regular guy (!) in Miami caught up in events that spiral out of control, involving a suitcase, a spray-gun game, two hit men, a rather large toad, some shameless Fritos product placement and the largest assortment of dim-bulb characters I've seen in a while.

Good performers such as Rene Russo (who's cartoonishly costumed here), Stanley Tucci, Janeane Garofalo, Jason Lee and others are abandoned by a script that makes them all appear brain-dead, and there seem to be far too many characters (all, oddly, coming in pairs) for one short movie to juggle.

And the bomb sequence, guaranteed to raise eyebrows in our current climate, is just plain moronic. Yes, it's supposed to be funny, but even comedy needs a grain of truth. In the scene, a bomb is clearly outlined on the airport metal detector's screen and yet waved through. Are you laughing yet?

"Big Trouble" is based on a novel by Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry, but has none of the writer's trademark wit. Read any one of his 800-word columns — he's in The Seattle Times on Mondays — for more laughs than you'll get in all 85 long minutes of "Big Trouble."

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or


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