Raising Arizona
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Synopsis for
Raising Arizona (1987) More at IMDbPro »

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Out in the Arizona suburbs, a young man named Herbert 'H.I.' McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) lives his life as a petty criminal with an apparent addiction to robbing convenience stores. He is constantly in and out of jail but is repeatedly paroled because he never uses live ammunition in his robberies. Each time he returns to prison, he is booked by young policewoman named Edwina 'Ed' (Holly Hunter). H.I. flirts with her during the booking process until one day when he comes upon her crying. She confesses she lost her fianc (being lower class-like she mis-pronounces it fy-ance) who ran off with a cosmetologist student. H.I. angrily retorts, saying that the man made a bitter mistake and his valiance creates a spark in Ed. An unlikely romance blossoms and H.I. proposes to Ed once a free man again. They begin a new life in a trailer home.

H.I. gets a legitimate job working in a factory while Ed continues her police work until they decide they want to have a child. However, Ed learns that she is infertile and their attempts to adopt are foiled by H.I.'s criminal history. Ed is devastated and H.I. feels helpless until a small ray of hope emerges: a story appears in the paper celebrating the birth of the 'Arizona Quints', quintuplet sons born to local furniture magnate Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson) and his wife Florence (Lynne Kitei). Figuring that the Arizonas have "more than they can handle", Ed and H.I. resolve to take one of the babies as their own.

One evening, with Ed urging him on, H.I. takes a ladder and scales the Arizona house to the window of the nursery. Though the energetic babies prove troublesome for H.I. to handle, he manages to keep four in their crib and takes whom he believes is Nathan Jr. (T.J. Kuhn). Though Ed has some reservations about upsetting Nathan Jr.'s mother, she and H.I. are overjoyed to finally have a family. Upon taking a family picture, Ed makes H.I. swear that he will be a caring and supporting father. That night, H.I. suffers a nightmare about a demonic figure he fears he's brought upon himself as Florence discovers Nathan Jr. missing the next morning.

Nathan Sr. enlists the local police to investigate his son's (Nathan Jr., he thinks) disappearance but the officers seem inept at conducting a proper inquiry. Frustrated by the poor functionality of the police, Nathan Sr. is approached by an intimidating man named Leonard Smalls (Randall 'Tex' Cobb), a bounty hunter armed with a shotgun and a pair of baby booties (the same biker from H.I.'s nightmare). He rides to the Arizona estate on his skull-laden motorcycle and offers to find the baby for twice what Arizona is offering as a reward, but Nathan Sr. refuses after Smalls demands a high price of $10,000. When Nathan Sr. accuses Smalls of kidnapping his son himself, Smalls leaves, intent on finding the baby anyway to sell on the black market.

Meanwhile, H.I.'s prison buddies, brothers Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe) Snoats, emerge screaming from the rain-soaked mud outside of prison, having just tunneled their way out. After cleaning themselves, and with much hair grease, they arrive at H.I.'s trailer for refuge. H.I. is excited to be reunited with his old buddies but Ed sees them as a bad influence and refuses to allow them to stay more than a day or two out of respect for H.I. The brothers are somewhat suspicious when they see the baby, leading a bumbling H.I. to struggle with a story to explain his spontaneous birth.

H.I. and Ed attempt to ease into 'normal' married life and invite H.I.'s supervisor, Glen (Sam McMurray), and his family over for a picnic. The outing becomes more than H.I. can bear; Glen's children, most of them adopted and disheveled looking, are rude take pleasure in breaking things around the apartment or scribbling on the walls while Glen's wife, Dot (Frances McDormand), bombards Ed with all the things, some excessive, she needs to do to keep Jr. healthy. On a walk around the trailer, Glen, already an annoyance with a penchant for horrible jokes, reveals to H.I. that he and Dot are swingers and suggests a wife swap. Infuriated and stressed, H.I. punches Glen in the face and demands that he leave.

H.I. keeps this from Ed, however, as they go out that night to run some errands. H.I. leaves Ed and Jr. in the car while he enters a large convenience store... and proceeds to don a legging on his head before he takes a bag of diapers off the shelf and a gun out of his pocket. The porn-obsessed, geek store owner, however, flips a silent alarm before Ed sees H.I. from outside. Enrage, she yells at him before driving off just as the cops arrive. H.I. flees the store and a hilarious chase throughout the neighborhood ensues as the trigger-happy geek store owner and a policeman chase H.I. Hearing gunshots, Ed resolves to drive back to fetch H.I. and picks him up, though a seed of doubt that H.I. could ever change his ways is planted in her mind.

The following morning, and while Ed is out, Glen arrives at the trailer and tells H.I. that he's fired and blackmails his cooperation by threatening to go to the police; dull, though he is, he deduced the baby's true identity. Gale and Evelle overhear this from within the trailer and decide to take the baby to claim the reward themselves. They attack H.I. and leave him tied to a chair in the trailer before leaving. Gale and Evelle then decide to rob a convenience store. However, during their escape, they discover that they've accidentally left Nathan Jr. behind in his car seat outside in the parking lot.

Ed returns to the trailer and she and H.I. immediately pursue the Snoats to rescue the baby. Clad in her police gear, Ed admits that it was irresponsible of her to take the baby in the first place but all that she cares about is getting him back. She doesn't care if she and H.I. even stay together, she just wants Nathan Jr. safe.

Meanwhile, Leonard Smalls follows up on a lead of a recent prison break and tracks Gale and Evelle to Ed and H.I.s trailer. There, he finds clues of Nathan Jr.s presence and follows the trail into town.

The pair decides to rob a bank while they're at it and take Nathan Jr. with them to a hayseed bank in town. Though their lack of coordination inspires some confusion from the bank patrons, the robbery goes successfully otherwise. Exept.... They've left Nathan Jr behind AGAIN in his car seat!

As they speed back into town, a canister that was placed in Gale and Evelle's money bag explodes, covering them in blue dye and disorienting them. H.I. and Ed catch up to them and demand to know where Nathan Jr. is. Gale and Evelle confess and Ed and H.I. race into town. However, Smalls has beaten them to Nathan Jr. and he latches the baby's car seat to the front of his motorcycle. Ed manages to retrieve Nathan Jr. from his car seat while H.I. distracts Smalls, enduring a brutal beating in the process. However, just before Smalls can finish H.I. off by shooting him, H.I. manages to pull a pin from a grenade on Smalls vest. The resulting explosion obliterates him and Ed and H.I. return home.

They decide to return Nathan Jr. to his real parents and sneak into the nursery where Nathan Sr. finds them. Thinking them a kind couple who have found Nathan Jr., he offers them the reward but Ed and H.I. want nothing of it and admit that they are leaving one another. As he watches them admire Nathan Jr., Nathan Sr. deduces that they are the ones who took the baby in the first place. However, he is sympathetic to their wishes to have a child of their own and advises them to stay together before giving up hope completely. He assures them that he won't call the police and allows them to leave.

That night, back at their trailer, H.I. has another dream. He dreams that Gale and Evelle voluntarily return to prison. H.I. imagines that they weren't ready to come out into the world just yet. He dreams that Nathan Jr. receives a football as a Christmas present one year from a loving couple who wish to remain anonymous and is watched by said couple as he grows up, becoming a football star in high school (Todd Michael Bogers). An elderly couple is seen living happily together as their children and grandchildren come to visit them for a holiday meal. In a final voice-over, H.I. surmises that, if it wasn't Ed and himself he was dreaming about and if that isn't wishful thinking, then it must be of a couple who come from a land not too far away.... maybe Utah.


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