Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, John Goodman, William Forsythe, Sam McMurray, Frances McDormand, Randall 'Tex' Cobb
Written by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Directed by: Joel Coen
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 94
Date: 03/05/1987

Raising Arizona (1987)

4 Stars (out of 4)

A Hard World for Small Things

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With its offbeat, hilarious dialogue, Raising Arizona (1987) is still one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Nicolas Cage stars as an ex-con, H.I. McDunnough, who -- through repeated arrests -- falls in love with a police photographer, Edwina (Holly Hunter). He goes straight and they marry, but life throws them another obstacle when it becomes clear that they can't have children, nor can they adopt any. When a furniture magnate, Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson), has quintuplets, H.I. and Ed cook up a plan to steal one of them, because it's fair.

More trouble comes when two of H.I.'s pals, Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe) escape from prison and begin to piece things together. Randall 'Tex' Cobb plays a kind of bounty hunter who appears to be slightly supernatural or otherworldly. Indeed, the movie does not try to capture any kind of realism. Writers and directors Joel and Ethan Coen and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld create a wide-open world where things move fluidly and strangely. Nothing seems to happen by accident.

But the strength of the movie is the love and conviction between the lead characters -- we never doubt them for a second -- as well as the rhythmic musical writing that just sounds funny, even when there are no "jokes."

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