What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

The most aptly titled flick in film history. Chevy Chase, John Candy, Demi Moore and Academy Award nominee Dan Aykroyd star in Nothing but Trouble.

nothing-but-troubleCast of Characters:
Chris Thorne – Chevy Chase
Judge Alvin “J.P.” Valkenheiser / Bobo – Dan Aykroyd
Dennis Valkenheiser / Eldona Valkenheiser – John Candy
Diane Lightson – Demi Moore
Fausto – Taylor Negron
Renalda – Bertila Damas
Miss Purdah – Valri Bromfield

Director – Dan Aykroyd
Screenplay – Dan Aykroyd
Producer – Lester Berman & Robert K. Weiss
Rated PG-13

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While hosting a swanky party at his Manhattan penthouse, financial publisher Chris Thorne (Chevy Chase) meets lawyer Diane Lightson (Demi Moore), and invites her on a trip to Atlantic City. While on the trip with her and two obnoxious Brazilian siblings, Fausto (Taylor Negron) and Renalda (Bertila Damas), aka the “Brazillionaires”, Chris decides to take a scenic detour off the New Jersey Turnpike and wind up in the rundown village of Valkenvania. When failing to comply with a stop sign leads to Chris being pursued by police officers Dennis Valkenheiser (John Candy) and his trigger-happy cousin Miss Purdah (Valri Bromfield), he makes the sound and rational choice to slam the gas pedal and make a run for it, thereby turning what could’ve been a measly little traffic ticket into a high-speed chase felony.

A decision both he and his companions will surely pay the price for… and so will viewers, as Chris’s poor judgment has resulted in a film that must continue on.

And continue on it does. Officers Valkenheiser and Purdah eventually catch the foursome and take them before Dennis’s old-as-hell grandpa, Judge Alvin Valkenheiser (Dan Aykroyd), whose methods of justice make the Jihadists look like flower children.

And then yada yada yada, crazy shenanigans ensue, and we should all be forever grateful for it. You know, ’cause I’d honestly hate to think of the schmuck that might’ve been stuck doing something utterly frivolous like helping impoverished children or finding a cure for cancer instead of having the joy of being able to see Dan Aykroyd screech like a dying basset hound while smothered in secondhand latex like a geriatric penis with leprosy.

What happens when you take three comic actors responsible for some of the greatest comedies of all time – The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, Stripes, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ghostbusters, Fletch, Funny Farm, Planes, Trains and Automobiles – and add them together into one film? Well, it equals no jokes.

That’s a big N-O. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing… Nothing! What’s that, Willy Wonka?

“You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!”

“I SAID GOOD DAY!” 

I don’t even know where to begin with this film. There are bad movies. There are horrible movies. There are movies that make you question if God is even listening. Then there are movies that are so bafflingly beyond any form of reasonable comprehension that all you can do is just sit there and slowly sputter out “What the fuck?” before finally giving up on the last shred of faith you ever had in humanity.

The latter brings us to the Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and John Candy led Nothing but Trouble, a film that has proven itself to be a goldmine for critics in being able to twist the title into summing up their thoughts on the film.

“Nothing but crap.”

“Nothing but a complete mess.”

“Nothing but a dumpster fire.”

“Nothing but the slow, painful deterioration of three great comedy careers forever flushed down the shitter and into the dark, vast emptiness that is career irrelevance.”

You get the point.

Nothing but Trouble marks the directorial debut of writer/actor Dan Aykroyd. $8 million made back on a $40 million budget later, it would go on to be his directorial finale. Apparently, this film is based on a true story of his when he was pulled over for speeding in a rural Northeastern town in the middle of the night back in 1978. He was taken to see the local justice of the peace for his brief disregard for the town’s traffic laws, and then years later became inspired to write this steaming pile of cinematic sewage. Perhaps he got done watching Wall Street and Deliverance and felt compelled to combine the two into an absurd black comedy about two starkly different cultures clashing? Who knows? What I do know is that this shit-show is what you get when you combine the ambition Aykroyd brought to Ghostbusters with a weekend long binge of his own Crystal Head Vodka. There’s forcing plot-points to justify moving your story along, and then there’s whatever this is that the artist formerly known as Dr. Ray Stantz shit out on a stack of papers.

Try and follow the story’s lead here, ’cause the synopsis I gave up above doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Chevy Chase is this financial journalist (just a journalist, yet for whatever reason, Aykroyd’s character keeps referring to him as a banker) that runs into Demi Moore. Moore is a lawyer, and we know she’s smart ’cause at one point her character wears glasses. Moore needs to go to Atlantic City ’cause this former client of hers she used to date has screwed her over financially (at no point in the film are we ever introduced to her ex), so bada-bing bada-boom, she gets it taken care of and problem solved.

No, see, for whatever reason, she doesn’t have a car, so she asks to borrow Chevy’s car. I repeat, she asks to borrow a stranger’s car. Chevy agrees to take her ’cause – fuck it, he’s getting paid to be in this piece of shit no matter what, and then for no apparent reason, this really annoying Brazilian brother/sister duo decides to join them ’cause – I don’t know. Something about them getting up before two in the afternoon – whatever. Aykroyd was probably God only knows how many bottles of vodka down into his weekend of writing when he felt like throwing those two magpies in. Anyway, they head off to Atlantic City, settle Moore’s dispute with her ex, and all is right with the world.

Nope! Turns out for whatever the fuck reason, this foursome from hell decide to take a scenic detour through New Jersey to get to Atlantic City. It’s New Jersey. New Jersey. NEW JERSEY! There’s no such thing as a “scenic detour” in New Jersey. Then, following a picnic lunch, ’cause nothing says scenic detour in the armpit of America more than a picnic lunch, they somehow wind up in Aykroyd’s version of Deliverance: Valkenvania. Chase runs a stop sign, garners the attention of two cops, and decides to start a high-speed chase for no other reason than because those two Chatty Cathy Brazilians in the backseat figured it’d be fun. No worries, though, ’cause Officer John Candy is so nice he’s gonna wave off that whole pesky little eluding police incident and just charge them for running the stop sign.

Nice to know that brief bit of action now bears no significance whatsoever in this film.

By the way, keep in mind, all this has been going on and on and on and on, and we have yet to get to the main crucial point of the plot.

Hey, I get it. Sometimes you have to stretch things, take giant leaps or bull shit your way into getting your story from point A to B. One time when I was in 8th grade, I wrote a story about an island of cheese my classmates and I got deserted on and didn’t know how to end it. I solved the problem by just blowing the island up. End of story.

Yep. I was thirteen at the time, though, and thought farts and wieners were the funniest things in the whole wide world. That’s my excuse. What’s Aykroyd’s?

What’s even sadder is that I still haven’t even scratched the surface yet. I haven’t even gotten to once they enter Aykroyd’s house of horrors. It’s a horror for the characters and twice the horror for viewers. It’s inside Danny’s little $40 million funhouse (no CGI was used, this was all done with very expensive practical sets) where things go from crazy to bat-shit and not in a ha-ha funny good way, but more like watching a huge stash of money get irresponsibly set on fire bad way. Aykroyd’s massive hard-on for bizarre little gadgets is on full display with dungeon slides, rubber dog toy pits, spinning beds, condiment trains and a killer roller coaster named “Mr. Bonestripper” that chops up his sentenced ne’er-do-wells into little bits. John Candy plays a dual role as his main character’s mute twin sister (I wouldn’t be surprised if this was sold to the studios as an opportunity for moviegoers to see Candy act goofy in drag). Digital Underground (featuring a pre-famous Tupac Shakur) shows up ’cause I guess they too wanted to take the scenic detour in New Jersey (after they’re arrested, Judge Alvin lets them go, ’cause he likes musicians and Aykroyd the writer isn’t even trying at this point). Meanwhile, as all this is going on, Chevy and Demi’s characters absolutely must have a romantic subplot, no matter how nonsensical it comes off as, and more importantly, does anyone really care if they end up together or not?

Honestly, this whole grease-fire of a film probably came down to Chevy having balls so blue they’re gonna explode, and after seeing Demi Moore fully naked in About Last Night and The Seventh Sign, went to Dan Aykroyd and was like, “Maaaan, I just gotta fuck. Make a movie about me hitching a ride to pound town with Demi.”

To which Aykroyd probably replied, “Okay… can John Candy dress in drag and I look like a rotting penis too?”

If you’re still not convinced the film has already jumped the shark, don’t worry; Aykroyd won’t let you down. Once he brings out Bobo and Li’l Debil, two pudgy, bizarre looking creatures (one of which is played by Aykroyd) that look like crumpled up foreskins in diapers, you’ll most certainly throw your hands up in the air, only this time you won’t be waving them around like you just don’t care like Digital Underground does in Judge Alvin’s courtroom. No, you’ll simply give up.

This is the price we pay when we leave Aykroyd alone to his devices in writing a script, and you know what that means? It means we owe the late, great Harold Ramis the highest debt of all debt of gratitudes for co-piloting the script to Ghostbusters.

‘Cause just imagine the giant screaming dildo we would’ve gotten instead of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man if Aykroyd was left flying solo.

This is what makes this film so aggravatingly upsetting. Chase, Aykroyd and Candy should know better. Judging from Chase and Candy’s performances, they agree. Candy appears to be so depressed his donning a dress, wig and makeup is most obviously to hide his shame. Chase phones-in his performance so hard forget being bored, he’s about an earth to the moon’s distance below comatose. Aykroyd seems to be the only one that gives even the slightest shit about this film, but that’s because this project is one giant self-pat on the back for him. These three aren’t just one-hit wonders. They’ve been a part of some of the most memorable comedies of all-time, not to mention the work they’ve done on sketch shows like SNL and SCTV. How none of them are able to scrape up even the smallest joke worth a mild chuckle is quite the mystery. Maybe Aykroyd figured all of the crazy set contraptions he’s come up with would sell the comedy? Well, it doesn’t, and on top of that, Aykroyd’s mishandling of the film’s tone is off-putting. The film can’t ever decide whether it wants to be a dark comedy a la The Burbs or a twisted horror flick a la The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the blending of the two is a jarring mixture of scares that don’t scare, comic gags that fall flat and gross-out gags that could revolt even the strongest stomachs.

Hell, I’m not even a fan of Demi Moore, but she did score a blind squirrel finding an acorn moment with A Few Good Men, and was just coming off a big box office hit with Ghost prior to this turd, so even she deserves better.

Despite the well-earned acclaim Chevy Chase, John Candy and Dan Aykroyd have garnered throughout their careers, Nothing but Trouble is an unpleasant, tonally discordant and narratively confusing film that has left a black stain on each of their resumes. Given what has become of Chase and Aykroyd’s careers following this mess – save a few brief moments of resurgence – that stain appears to be permanent. I could rattle off the long list of sins this film commits, but at the end of the day, there’s really only one that matters most: Three of the funniest men in comedy history have come together to make a comedy that isn’t funny at all.

One thought on “What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

  1. The funniest review I’ve read yet, I seriously thought I was going to need to be sedated.
    It brought back the memories of the film, that I forgot ,which is , how much it stunk up the place, wherever it was shown!
    Gen. Lee. ( T. M. )

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