"Are you boys gonna chase down your leads or are you gonna sit drinkin' coffee in the one house in the state where I know my boy ain't at?"
Raising Arizona, the Coen brothers' sophomore film, is an eccentric screwball comedy that feels cartoonish at times but served as an exercise in form for their upcoming comedies. This perhaps is much lighter in tone and more humane, but some of their common trademarks can be found in this early film of theirs. I don't think it's as cynical as most of their other work, but it does have a similar quirky sense of humor that can be found in all their comedies. Besides being original, it also happens to be very entertaining introducing some wacky and memorable characters. If you are fan of the Coen's work you will see a lot of familiar faces (John Goodman and Frances McDermond in supporting roles), but it was the lead roles from Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter that truly surprised me. They were great together playing this unconventional family that will be really hard to forget. Hi is one of Nicolas Cage's most memorable characters and his crazy hair was the highlight of his performance. As in most of their films, the stereotypes are captured really well and this time it was the Southwest's turn to play for laughs with their thick accents. The performances in this film were all highly exaggerated giving the film its cartoonish tone. Raising Arizona was a joyful experience despite the fact that I didn't find myself laughing too hard; it's a good film, but not as good as The Big Lebowski. Despite their familiar trademarks, the Coens show so much range in their films going from neo-noir to slapstick comedies. They are a force to reckon with.
H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) meets his future wife, Ed (Holly Hunter), in the most uncommon of situations. She is a police officer in Arizona, and he is a criminal who keeps on getting caught for robbing convenience stores. Since he never carries a loaded weapon his stints in prison are short, but he manages to turn his life around once he falls for Ed. They enjoy their first years of marriage and are truly happy together, so much so that Ed convinces Hi to start a family because their blissfulness should be shared. The only problem is that they are unable to conceive a baby and due to Hi's criminal past they can't adopt either. The only solution is to kidnap one so they find their perfect victim: one of the quintuplets of a furniture tycoon, Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson). They don't think it's fair that the Arizona's got five children, so they convince themselves that they have more they can handle anyway. This event changes their lives forever as friends from Hi's past show up (John Goodman and William Forsythe), as well as his coworkers (Sam McMurray and Frances McDormand), and an evil apocalyptic bounty hunter (Randall Tex Cobb) who haunts his dreams. This baby has changed their lives forever.
The wacky and over the top performances in this film worked really well thanks to some skillful writing from the Coens and some clever one liners. I already mentioned how good the lead performances were, but some of the supporting turns were also quite impressive, the standouts being Frances McDormand and Randall Tex Cobb. Cobb's character reminded me a lot of a cartoonish version of Javier Bardem's turn in No Country for Old Men. There are also some very funny scenes revolving around Trey Wilson and once again the Coens make the victim look really unsympathetic, allowing the audience to root for the wacky outlaws. It's a charming film with some great scenes, one involving a long crazy chase across an Arizona neighborhood. It is a very sharp and clever comedy that also happens to be very entertaining taking us through an adventure that only the Coens could come up with.