Halfwits at large

I used to read Dave Barry's column. Heck, I used to get a newspaper, which made that easy. But having decided the investment of time and energy not worth it, especially since I have to pay to take this wedge of time out of my day, I haven't missed it much, not even the coupons. But that's somewhat beside the point, because I'd stopped reading Barry's column some time before then. I think he's a funny guy, and I enjoy his style of humor. The thing was, I found that once I read a certain number of his pieces, I wasn't finding anything new in them.

Big Trouble is adapted from Barry's first novel, and nobody strained any brain cells trying to come up with a better name. The plot is fast, loose, and full of absurd scenes that bear a not-so-surprising resemblance to Barry's columns. I can see why a studio would think the material would make a good film. There's humor, some pointed insight, and enough action the public won't get bored.

Our supposed protagonist, and actual narrator, is Tim Allen's newspaper columnist - not unlike Barry himself, though there's some sort of an advertising gig involved as well. He's the divorced parent of Matt, who doesn't think much of his father. Matt is involved in a squirt gun assassination game, and needs to "shoot" Jenny Herk. Jenny's step-dad, Arthur (Stanley Tucci), has a hit out on him because he stole from his company, which is a bit on the shady side already. Confusing things start happening when these two "hits" start getting played out at the same time. Arthur gets tipped off to the threat against him, and tries to buy a missile from some Russian arms traders who use a bar for a front, but the deal is interrupted by a couple small-time hoods who think they've gotten lucky. Throw in a couple cops, federal agents, a hippie throwback, Herk's wife as a love interest for Tim Allen, goats on the loose, and various other silly, deluded, or self-interested people, and pretty soon you'll be needing a scorecard to keep track of them all.

The movie banks it all on the frantic interplay between all these elements and, to a certain extent, it works. There's something missing, however, and I wonder if more time to explore the characters, or maybe paring down the plotlines would have helped. Things wrap up with Allen's character getting some newfound respect from his son. It's a nice moment, not overdone, yet it doesn't work as the point for the whole film. It comes together a smidge too easily, yet leaves several (possible) plotlines incomplete.

Really, the movie comes off a lot like Dave Barry's columns. It's nice, I like it, but it doesn't take long to get the joke. My recommendation is to emulate the characters and simply laugh, not thinking too much about what's going on.

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