6.6/10
13,216
155 user 56 critic

The Big Kahuna (1999)

R | | Drama, Comedy | 19 May 2000 (USA)
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Two veteran salesmen dissect a sales pitch to a particular client, through their young protégé.

Director:

John Swanbeck

Writers:

Roger Rueff (play), Roger Rueff (screenplay)
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Kevin Spacey ... Larry Mann
Danny DeVito ... Phil Cooper (as Danny Devito)
Peter Facinelli ... Bob Walker
Paul Dawson ... Bellboy
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Storyline

On the last evening of a convention two seen-it-all industrial lubricant salesmen and a youngster from the research department gather in the hotel's hospitality suite to host a delegates party. The main aim is to get the business of one particular big fish. When it becomes apparent that it is the lad who has developed a direct line to the guy, his strong religious beliefs bring him into sharp conflict with his older and more cynical colleagues. Written by Jeremy Perkins <jwp@aber.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Every sale begins with a smile.

Genres:

Drama | Comedy

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 May 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hospitality Suite See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$80,957, 30 April 2000, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,150,107, 23 July 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The spoken word lyrics to "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) Mix" used at the end of the movie and during the credits, released by Baz Luhrmann in 1999, were from a June 1, 1997 Chicago Tribune column titled "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young" by Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune columnist and long-time writer of the Brenda Starr, Reporter comic strip. The essay began with the admonition to wear sunscreen, and continued with discursive advice to the young for living well and without regret. In her introduction to the column, she described it as the commencement address she would give if she were asked to give one. (The column was widely circulated around the Internet, usually erroneously attributed to Kurt Vonnegut Jr..) The song was a number one hit in several countries (there are several versions: four of the song and two of the video). See more »

Goofs

When Bob leaves the room to find the Kahuna at the other party, he has his name tag on, when he is outside walking there, it is off. It reappears when he is at the party, speaking to the Kahuna. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Phil Cooper: [voice-over] No answer.
Bob Walker: [voice-over] She must be out shopping.
Phil Cooper: [voice-over] God forbid.
See more »

Connections

References All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

Hey Pachuco!
Written by Eddie Nichols, James Achor & Mando Dorame
Performed by Royal Crown Revue
Published by Zip Gun Music, J. Achor Music & Dorame Music
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc.
By arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

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User Reviews

thoughtful drama
21 September 2000 | by Buddy-51See all my reviews

Though essentially little more than a stage bound version of the play, `Hospitality Suite,' the film entitled `The Big Kahuna' earns distinction for its sharply delineated characters and the finely wrought performances of its three main actors. In fact, the stage origins of the film are evident in the fact that the action rarely extends beyond a single set – a hotel suite in Wichita, Kansas in which three salesman are gathered for a convention – and the fact that only four people are even assigned speaking parts (and even the fourth is a mere walk-on bellboy). All the other people we see serve as a kind of silent backdrop before which the three principal players enact their complex personal drama.

Kevin Spacey, in a truly brilliant performance, plays Larry, a middle-aged, sardonic salesman who sees life strictly from the perspective of a hardcore cynic and who, consequently, runs roughshod over his two business associates with his acerbic wit and hardnosed bluntness. In total contrast is Bob (Peter Facinelli), a 20-something neophyte to the selling business, a sincere, well-intentioned, but hopelessly naïve born-again Christian, who has trouble separating his career as a salesman from his felt need to fulfill the Biblical edict to go out among men and spread the Good News. Caught between the two is Phil (Danny DeVito), a 52-year old man who, after years of devoting his life to the cause of selling, has begun to seriously question the validity of his life's work and has, therefore, recently found himself contemplating such weighty matters as suicide, the existence of God and the meaning of love and friendship. Obviously, such cleanly delineated characters could well have slid over into two-dimensional stereotypes, yet the author, Roger Rueff, in adapting his play to the screen, has built into each of the three principal figures a dimension of multifaceted human complexity. Larry, for instance, despite all of his facile cynicism, shows a far deeper side to his character when, in a quiet moment in which Phil pours his heart out to him, he offers his buddy the hand of genuine compassion and friendship. We discover that the often-bitter tone Larry displays to the world is just a façade, a cover-up for the void that lies deep within his own troubled psyche. Similarly, Rueff avoids the common trap of reducing the devout Christian character to the customary level of a mindless buffoon. Although we sense that Bob too uses his Christianity as a way of ordering his life - thereby avoiding the messy ugliness that a more freethinking life often requires - yet, Rueff merely implies that Bob has some growing up to do, not that his belief system must itself be jettisoned. And Phil, caught between these two worldviews, provides, out of his own confused weakness, the voice of reasoned sanity that helps Larry and Bob come to a final understanding and mutual appreciation of each other. He sees Larry plainly for who he is, yet Phil knows that this is the person who means more to him than anyone else in the world. Similarly, though he somewhat admires and respects Bob's sincere devotion to his Christian principles, Phil knows that Bob has a long way to go before he becomes a true `man of character.'

`The Big Kahuna' does not provide big laughs, though the sardonic wit often strikes a deep chord in the audience. The film may also seem claustrophobic to those who demand more movement from their movies. The dialogue, however, is consistently sharp and incisive, even though Phil's final speech borders a bit on the pedantic. (At this point, Phil's function as the author's mouthpiece becomes a bit heavy-handed to say the least). Nevertheless, for those in search of a fine character study, driven by strong performances and insightful observations about human nature, `The Big Kahuna' is definitely worth checking out.


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