“Nothing but trouble(1991) In a familiar way, it allows the audience to feel comfortable, to let their guard down, and to be struck by the unbridled and turbulent work of ambition.
The opening credits of Dan Aykroyd’s directorial debut soar above the sparkling New York City skyline, making this feel like another generic romantic comedy. The Twin Towers shots promise a completely different kind of movie than we watch.
We meet Chris Thorne, a wealthy financial analyst, played by Chevy Chase, who hits the spot with Diane, played by Demi Moore, a lawyer who needs a car.
Somewhere in New Jersey, Thorne makes an ill-advised short through Valkenavania and is stopped by a police chief (John Candy). A mere speeding ticket and finger shake is out of the question, as cop tells Thorne he must have an audience with local justice for peace.
Thorne pleads, “This may be…Canvania, but this is still America.”
His complaints are not heard, and Thorne, Diane and their companions find themselves in a crumbling court, where actions are taken by 100-year-old Judge Alvin Falkenheiser, played by Aykroyd. On that point, the movie went crazy for Looney Tunes and never looked back.
Aykroyd conceived the story, while his brother Peter (who makes a free cameo as Mike the Doorman) wrote the script. I’d add that Wes Craven/Eddie Murphy’s grotesque, “Vampire in Brooklyn” (1995) was written by the two brothers (in this case, Eddie and Charlie Murphy).
Aside from the two Coens brothers, the siblings are not always the best collaborators. In the cases of Nothing But Trouble and Vampire in Brooklyn, the end results are all over the place but very entertaining.
The setting is good, if overrated (there was definitely an easier, faster way to get Chase and Moore on the road). Aykroyd has ditched the teenagers and introduced “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.
Here, the rich and the protected are ignorant when they have to negotiate or exchange pleasantries with the salt of the earth’s species. Correct question: Did Aykroyd even want to make this a comedy? There are enough elements here for the welcome variety of ’90s in “Motel Hell” (1980).
Gorgeous design, costumes, and matte palettes, in keeping with Aykroyd’s unleashed imagination, make this either too much of a good thing or too much, depending on whether you like or roll your eyes to the idea of this movie.
Despite its huge failure in 1991, it grew on a generation hungry for the oddities of cult films.
Chase is in great shape here—it’s rigid, cynical, too cold for the room and connects with Erwin Fletcher’s annoying edge. Although the movie is hardly fondly remembered for its most famous comedies, Chase’s one-liners are sharp enough to always drop and give the movie a kick when it starts derailing.
Moore is better than her role, although there’s enough here to remind us that comedy isn’t what she’s known for in the first place. Chase and Moore try it out, but the romance is meaningless and the two lack chemistry.
Aykroyd’s brilliant role “won” him for Worst Supporting Actor in the Razzies, but his eccentric and hammered action is exactly what the character needs.
Greetings from Valkenvania! Nothing But Trouble is out now on Blu-ray by Shout Select. Featuring 6 new interviews, featuring Tweet embedChevy Chase, Bertila Damas, and more, plus new commentary and more! order it in https://t.co/9LRvCxeIS8 pic.twitter.com/dQXVFTyaCo
– Whoop, shout, shout! Factory (ShoutFactory) October 27, 2021
Candy is strong, especially in his initial performance as a no-nonsense cop; His second, silent personality is in keeping with Aykroyd’s penchant for bowing to the weird, but it even extends to how generous Candy the witch can use substance.
Multiple soundtrack references to songs from Ray Charles, Damn Yankees, Peter Aykroyd, and Digital Underground seem gratuitous, with Aykroyd pushing the over-the-top soundtrack hard. Far better is Michael Kamen’s unusual and feisty score.
The PG-13 rating has removed any blood (if anything to begin with) and no horror. Except for a nauseating shot of the judge devouring an undercooked sausage, the gross stuff and the violence are kept off-screen (which is disappointing for a movie that introduces an often used device called The Bonestripper).
An anecdote about the film’s production is featured in Spike Lee’s 2006 book on filmmaking, This Is My Story and I’m Sticking to It, in which he recalls that Warner Brothers did not give him the budget he needed for his masterpiece and sixth film, “Malcolm X” (1992).
Lee needed $30 million to make it happen and had to raise part of the budget himself. Meanwhile, Aykroyd earned about $40 million for his directorial debut. The logic might be that Aykroyd had worked with Steven Spielberg and John Landis at that point and knows his way around the set.
However, Lee was right – offering the talented but novice comedian so much money and freedom for his first movie, let alone a movie made of this size, was unwise.
Aykroyd shows his limits as a director during fight and action scenes; He has an eye for detail but the choreography is not here. The second act, while eventful, is filled with long, no-laughs, but the subtle combos and quirky story pulls that bore it.
The sequence that includes a room of discarded ID cards from the judge’s countless previous victims is an indication of how this could benefit from getting darker, not dumber.
There are a few story-level errors that almost drown it out completely: the side characters of the wealthy Brazilians who join Chase and Moore’s journey are unnecessary baggage from the start. Although the Aykroyds try to create a story-level style, bringing in drunk driver Daniel Baldwin doesn’t add much either.
Chapter two introduces giant mutant kids (one played by Aykroyd) who also walk and talk bad thoughts. Yes, the makeup is stunning all around but given that the oversized tykes (named Bobo and Lil’ Debbull) don’t come without a backstory or any real reason to be in this movie, they are an embodiment of Aykroyd who’s missing the mark.
The famous sequence that allows hip-hop group Digital Underground to literally enter the movie, do some numbers, and then walk out the front door is another distraction. Aykroyd could have included this as an add on to the final credits or it was just a digital underground scene as a music video for MTV broadcast (which became brief).
As it is, at first it’s amusing, until it turns painfully tacky, though at least it gives Tupuc Shakur its unlikely first movie.
Aykroyd’s imagination isn’t something I’d normally like to limit, though it’s worth noting his semi-crazy original concept in the epic scale of “Ghostbusters“It has been carefully pared back into the film that it is now. Aykroyd’s penchant for espousing ambiguous notions, inserting strange character names and pushing his narratives straight into The Twilight Zone, is present not only in ‘Ghostbusters’ but also in his most entertaining cars on screen,”Dragent“(1987).
I admire how strange and unpredictable the “nothing but trouble” thing is, but I can’t help but defend something shaky and uneven to the point of madness.
“Nothing but Trouble” debuted on Blu-ray this month, thanks to the Shout Factory. The movie still feels gritty (except for the foundational and final scenes set in New York, the only instances where the movie looks like the stellar, shining car).
The special bonus feature set is a mixed bag, but to say the least, a welcome upgrade from the decades-old snappy case DVD version.
Themes sport separate interviews with Aykroyd and Chase – the former is the best talking heads here, with his in-depth recollections and gossip covering the film’s anticipated start and response, although he speaks quickly, Aykroyd covers much more than just the basic talking points.
Chase, on the other hand, offers a wandering and unfocused monologue on the film, pausing to laugh at Aykroyd’s prosthetic nose, as if he is now realizing what is supposed to be in the film; Chase completes Aykroyd and the entire film.
It’s a big difference from the unflattering words he wrote in his 2013 certified autobiography, “I’m a Chevy Chase…and you’re not.”
We never see Aykroyd and Chase during interviews. Instead, we have an audio recording of their interviews playing over clips from the movie, which is a much more welcome touch, with the stunning behind-the-scenes visuals and production graphics.
Most of the people interviewed here weren’t filmed but heard, which is good, except that the barrage of “Nothing But Trouble” clips made me overdose on the movie. Among the best interviews is Bertilla Damas, who played one of the “Brazilian billionaires” in the movie (played by the late Taylor Negron).
Damas appreciates the film’s cult, but remains the most honest about film and production issues, specifically Chase. While Aykroyd makes a casual, noncommittal nod that Chase and Moore don’t get along during filming, Damas comes out and remembers when Chase was not being nice to her.
I’m not saying that I wanted all participants to survive the negative history of the film, but only Damas is available to provide thoughtful feedback on the turbulent production (Aykroyd, on the other hand, notes that it is a “classic”, a sign of optimism for anyone outside the cult Film enthusiast).
Demi Moore, Chevy Chase, and Taylor Negron in Nothing But Trouble (1991) pic.twitter.com/4mf77sElRP
– framefound December 28, 2020
Some lackluster TV trailers are available, although the official trailer for the movie impressively sells what the movie is about and doesn’t undermine how it plays off the wall. Seeing the amazing artwork on a separate gallery theme, which led to the creation of the character and costume designs, is the highlight of the batch.
Obtaining Aykroyd and Chase was quite a feat for this disc, although I wonder why no one asked Aykroyd a path to comment on the character, as that seems to be nowhere near as close to his ally.
“Nothing But Trouble” is one of those totally nonexistent studio films that I can’t help but defend, given how huge the swing is for everyone involved. Aykroyd’s single directive effort is totally elusive, and it’s better than mediocre or forgotten.
While “Nothing But Trouble” is flawed but brilliantly broken, everything else is just the same old song.