Touchstone and Beyond: A History of Disney’s “Big Trouble”

Tim Allen stars in the adaptation of a Dave Barry book, what could go wrong. This week a look back at a comedy caper that has an astounding cast, Big Trouble.

The Plot

Eliot Arnold was a popular columnist at a prestigious paper in Miami. When he loses his job, he descends into the world of advertising to make a living. His mundane existence is put to the test when his son Matt’s prank gets him involved with the Herk family.

Meeting Anna, Eliot is smitten with the married lady and will do anything to help her and her daughter Jenny. After being kidnapped by two brainless thugs named Snake and Eddie. Eliot, Anna, and Matt head to the airport to rescue Jenny, and stop a nuclear bomb from going off.

The Good

Dennis Farina as the hitman sent to kill Stanley Tucci’s character is incredible. His disdain for Miami, the radio shows, and the climate is hilarious, and the best part of the film. Sadly, Farina doesn’t get enough screen time, which would have improved the movie greatly.

The Bad and the Ugly

This is a film with a talented cast and yet the story doesn’t adapt well to the screen. I found myself caring little for what happened.

I hope Stanley Tucci got paid a lot of money for his role because wow. Rarely do I hate a character, but Arthur Herk is awful and I hate him.

The story overall is very funny, but an ensemble of such a size that is Big Trouble detracts from getting too attached to the leads. I rooted for the hitman that Farina played, and that’s not who I should care about.

Beyond the Film Facts

  • Apparently, Barry Sonnenfeld was able to bring the film in under production.
  • This was Sofia Vergara’s American cinema debut.
  • Katie Holmes was originally signed on to play the part of Jenny Herk.
  • Writer David Koepp has a cameo as the voice of the radio announcer who argues with a Gator’s fan, who is voiced by director Barry Sonnenfeld.
  • The film was originally supposed to be released in late 2001. However, the plot line of a bomb on a plane made the studio push the release well into 2002, since it was so close to the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York.
  • The movie is based on the book by Dave Barry.
  • The film was able to shoot inside the Miami Herald office thanks to Dave Barry, who was a columnist there at the time.
  • Omar Epps plays an FBI agent whose partner is played by Heavy D.
  • Andy Richter plays an airport security guard.
  • Martha Stewart performs the cameo that Arthur sees after ingesting the hallucinogens.
  • The film was a box office disappointment with critics describing the large cast as never having the timing to pull off the slapstick comedy that it wants to be.
  • When the movie was released, it opened in the eighth spot, with a weekend take of just over a million dollars.

The Streamy Award

{The following four categories are based on a Film Reel scale.

1 Reel-Watch on your Smartphone, 2 Reels-Tablet Time, 3 Reels-Travel Entertainment, 4 Reels-Big Screen Event}

There is a lot of potential in Big Trouble, but the film never delivers with the comedy that it wants to be. The movie is meant to be silly, and while I did laugh at multiple points throughout the movie, I didn’t find the overall product to be incredible.

I love Rene Russo, but she deserved better than her Anna Herk role.

Tim Allen was pretty good, but the script never quite comes together, and the story is ridiculous with little payoff.

Big Trouble is not the worst movie, but it’s not a great movie. I give it a 1 Reel recommendation. If you have some time, and want to see a great Dennis Farina performance, check it out. If you take a pass, you aren’t missing out.

Cast and Crew

  • Tim Allen as Eliot Arnold
  • Rene Russo as Anna Herk
  • Stanley Tucci as Arthur Herk
  • Dennis Farina as Henry Desalvo
  • Tom Sizemore as Snake Dupree
  • Johnny Knoxville as Eddie Leadbetter
  • Zooey Deschanel as Jenny Herk
  • Ben Foster as Matt Arnold
  • Patrick Warburton as Walter Kramitz
  • Janeane Garofalo as Monica Romero

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

Produced by Touchstone Pictures / The Jacobson Company / Sonnenfeld Josephson Worldwide Entertainment 

Release Date: April 5, 2002

Budget: $40 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $7,267,307

Worldwide Total: $8,493,890

Coming Soon

Next week it’s time to bring the laughs with Steve Martin and Queen Latifah in the 2003 comedy Bringing Down the House.