Recidivist hold-up man H.I. McDonnough and police woman Edwina marry, only to discover they are unable to conceive a child. Desperate for a baby, the pair decide to kidnap one of the quintuplets of furniture tycoon Nathan Arizona. The McDonnoughs try to keep their crime secret, while friends, co-workers and a feral bounty hunter look to use Nathan Jr. for their own purposes. Written by
Scott Renshaw <email@example.com>
"Raising Arizona" is one of what I consider to be the five instantly classic films by the team of Ethan and Joel Coen, the others being "Blood Simple", "Fargo", "Oh Brother Where Are Thou", and "The Big Lebowski".
But "Raising Arizona" is my personal favorite, and probably the most quotable films I have ever seen, with some of the best dialogue ever written for film.
The story in brief: H.I. (Nicholas Cage) and "Ed" (Holly Hunter, in one of my favorite roles of hers) portray, respectively, an ex-con and a cop who meet when he keeps getting arrested for robbing convenience stores. They fall in love, get married, decide that "there is just too much love" between them, and they need a "critter to share it with". Upon finding that "Edwina's insides were a rocky place" where H.I.'s "seed could find no purchase", they try to adopt, but are turned down because of H.I.'s record. Then they read in the newspaper about local unpainted furniture storeowner Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson), owner of "Unpainted Arizona", and his wife having quintuplets as a result of fertility pills, and who joke that "They got more than they can handle". The couple hatch a plan to take one of the babies and raise it as their own.
What results is an ongoing, fast-paced, hilarious set of misadventures, complicated by the appearance of a ruthless, heartless outlaw named Leonard Smalls (Randall "Tex" Cobb) Nathan Arizona hires to find the missing baby, and two felon friends from H.I.'s past (John Goodman and William Forsythe), who make a childbirth-like escape from prison. Sam McMurray (the smarmy dad in "Drop Dead Gorgeous") is H.I.'s....smarmy boss, Glen. Frances McDormand (real-life spouse of Joel Coen, and star of other Coen films such as "Blood Simple" and "Fargo") is his excitable wife Dot. M. Emmet Walsh ("Blood Simple") has a scenery-chewing cameo role as H.I.'s talkative co-worker.
When Ed finally opens up her 5'2" can of Southern-fried whup-ass, throwing her badge to the dirt, striding towards Leonard Smalls as she bellows with all her might, "Gimme back that baby, you warthog from HELL!!!" I always fling my arms up and shout "You go girl! Kick his ass!"
And the way Hunter cries is hilarious.
Holly Hunter was great in this role, as one would expect. She's a very talented actress, in both serious and comedic roles.
Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter made a great on screen couple, Cage with his hair standing out in every direction, looking like a hapless, browbeaten puppy half of the time, and Hunter as his diminutive firecracker of a wife who loves him and tries to keep him honest (oh yeah except for that little kidnapping excursion).
I could go on and on about this film but suffice to say that so far I haven't met anyone who didn't find "Raising Arizona" hilarious. And as any great Coen brothers film, it has a certain mythic quality that's hard to describe, but is present all of of the brothers' best efforts. When I was single, I often used Coen brothers films as a barometer of sorts for prospective boyfriends. For instance, I remember seeing "Fargo" on a first date, and when we came out of the theater, the guy (whose name I have since forgotten anyway) remarked "Huh, I didn't think much of that", while I was thinking how blown away I was by the film! I immediately thought to myself "So much for him! This relationship won't last long."
For more great Coen comedy, check out "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" (2000), which is loosely based on Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey". Another great Coen comedy is "The Big Lebowski" (1998), which also includes my favorite singer/songwriter Aimee Mann in a brief cameo, and boasts a cult following that has resulted in an annual "Lebowskifest" for fans of the film.
"Blood Simple" (1984) is probably my favorite film noir modern-day classic tale of lust and betrayal, and is my personal second-favorite Coen brothers film. "Fargo" (1996), which won the Screen writing Oscar, and an Oscar for Frances McDormand, is another must-see Coen classic.
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