Review Index


One of the most notorious flops of the nineties, an overly expensive, under-conceived Tim Burton-esque concoction from writer/director Dan Aykroyd.  It is memorable though, and even kinda fun in its cockeyed way.  Not to over praise this far-from-classic comedy, but itís a cult waiting to happen.  

The Package 
     For Warner Bros., 1991ís NOTHING BUT TROUBLE was aptly titled in every sense.  Featuring pricey talent like Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and Demi Moore (plus a brief cameo by the rap group Digital Underground), it was the highly anticipated directorial debut of Aykroyd, who went massively over budget.  Warners execs meekly allowed Aykroydís excesses, apparently thinking they had another BEETLEJUICE on their hands (BEETLEJUICE wannabes were all the rage at the time: see the same yearís DROP DEAD FRED).  The total cost ended up at around $40 million, a substantial amount at the time, and the film bombed critically and at the box office. 
     Now that all the furor has died down, Iím confident NOTHING BUT TROUBLE will achieve cult status, as it already has in many quarters.  A dark, misanthropic and plain weird movie, it definitely wasnít what early nineties audiences wanted to see, but I believe modern day viewers are made of sterner stuff. 

The Story 
     Businessman Chris Thorne decides, together with his hot chick companion Diane and goofball buddies Fausto and Renalda, to take a weekend trip to Atlantic City.  But while driving through the creepy town of Valkenvania Chris is pulled over for running a stop sign.  He and his friends are herded into a forbidding old house run by the ancient Judge Alvin Valkenheiser, who passes sentence from behind a large desk that rises out of the floor--this he does by pulling a lever that drops Chris and co. into a dark underground chamber!  They, it turns out, are the lucky ones: a more obnoxious group of people are dragged in a bit later and sentenced to death by the judge, who deposits the hapless victims in a roller coaster car that thrusts them into a metal (and bone) grinder.
     Later that night Chris and his friends are invited to dinner with Alvin, his woman sheriff companion and their severely overweight daughter.  Chris and Diane try to escape, stumbling into an upstairs room where they find several driversí licenses, presumably from past victims, stuck to a wall.  Shortly thereafter the two are separated; Chris is thrust further into Alvinís loony world when the latter decides heís to marry his daughter, while Diane ends up in the clutches of Alvinís mutant twin sons, who live in a vast junkyard adjacent to the house.
     Alvin becomes tired of Chrisí antics and sends him out in the roller coaster execution machine, but it breaks down before reaching the deadly grinder.  Chris jumps out, meets up with Diane and the two make their way back to civilization, where they contact the police--not that this helps any, as Alvin and his family have already decided to pay Chris a home visit! 

The Direction 
     Who knew that Dan Aykroyd, the mild-mannered star of light comedies like TRADING PLACES, THE BLUES BROTHERS and GHOSTBUSTERS (and screenwriter of the latter two) had the crazed, mean-spirited NOTHING BUT TROUBLE in him?  The seeming dichotomy of the filmís fecund strangeness with its writer-directorís traditional nice-guy persona seemed to really bother critics and viewers of 1991, but for me the filmís weirdness is what makes it interesting: love it or hate it, NOTHING BUT TROUBLE is one of the most arrestingly odd movies ever made by a major Hollywood studio.  Itís also, if one is in the right mood--which is to say, if one isnít put off by lightweight grotesquerie--quite fun to watch with its funhouse setting and plethora of elaborate special effects.
     But I said at the head of this review that the film is far from the stuff which classic comedies are made.  For starters, itís never particularly funny.  Nor are talented cast members like Chevy Chase and John Candy ever given much to work with character-wise.  (The most memorable role, unsurprisingly, went to Aykroyd himself, buried under tons of make-up as the evil Judge Valkenheiser.)  Thereís also the prickly fact that the proceedings are far too modest in conception (the script was allegedly based on an actual incident that happened to Aykroyd back in the seventies) to support the big budget treatment it was given.  If nothing else, Aykroyd succeeded in making the most expensive John Waters movie ever.

Vital Statistics

Warner Bros. 

Director: Dan Aykroyd
Producer: Robert K. Weiss
Screenplay: Dan Aykroyd
Cinematography: Dean Cundey
Editing: Malcolm Campbell, James R. Symons
Cast: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Demi Moore, John Candy, Valri Bromfield, Taylor Negron, Bertila Damas, Raymond J. Barry, Brian Doyle-Murray, John Wesley, Peter Aykroyd, Daniel Baldwin, Jim Staskel, Deborah Lee Johnson, Karla Tamburrelli, John Daveikis

Home   Movies  Games  Stories  Comix  Adam's Bio