Raising Arizona

Nicolas Cage‘s a jailbird, but he ain’t such a bad guy. With his goofy hair, his mustache, his wide-eyed look, his Woody Woodpecker tattoo and his Hawaiian shirts, he actually seems harmless. It’s just that he prefers robbing convenience stores to working. But when he meets cop Holly Hunter and falls in love with her, he kinda settles down. They get married and find themselves a nice little place to live, but one thing’s still missing for them to form a family: a baby! The problem is that Hunter’s sterile, but when the couple learns that the wife of unpainted furniture kingpin Nathan Arizona gave birth to quintuplets, they decide to steal one of them. After all, why should one family get 5 kids when another can’t even have one? But even with a baby in the house, Cage can’t quite settle down, and the temptation to do something stupid grows even bigger when two of his old buddies (the hilariously loud John Goodman and William Forsythe) escape from prison and crash at his place.

So that’s the oddball premise of this wacky yet sentimental comedy, a big departure from any of the other films of the Coen brothers, best known for edgier movies like “Fargo” and “Blood Simple”. Maybe it’s the 80s that got to them, or maybe it’s because it’s their first studio picture. Anyway, while this is one of their lesser films, it’s still an amusing if uneven comedy. What’s for sure is that it works much better than “CrimeWave”, the film they wrote for Sam Raimi that was ruined by boring slapstick and lame acting. There is some silliness in “Raising Arizona”, with cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld giving the film the feel of a madcap cartoon, all fast push-ins and frantic tracking shots, and Nic Cage running around like the Woody Woodpecker tattooed on his arm, chased by the “lone biker of the Apocalypse”, but it doesn’t go far enough to become just dumb and annoying. Unfortunately it’s not that funny either, by times it’s just sappy or blah (Holly Hunter does nothing for me in this part), but it’s still worth checking out for the things that do work.