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The Big Kahuna (2000)
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Review Date: May 15, 2000
Director: John Swanbeck
Writer: Roger Rueff
Producers: Kevin Spacey, Elie Samaha, Andrew Stevens
Actors:
Kevin Spacey
Danny DeVito
Peter Facinelli
Plot:
Three salesmen, one quick and honest, one young and religious, and one tired and fed up of the whole thing, prepare to spend a night entertaining clients in a hotel room, while they await the arrival of the "big kahuna" (the big lead). Despite this setup, the film is actually more about the interaction between the three men, their inner thoughts, feelings and issues.
Critique:
Talkity-talkity-talkity...this film basically takes place in one room, with three solid actors babbling away about a lot of stuff that's funny and interesting, and other stuff that is just slow and repetitive. I actually had to "tune out" for a few minutes while some of the conversation went back and forth and back again, only to regain my composure, and re-establish my connection to the characters. Admittedly, I saw this film while I was pretty sleepy, so that definitely might've played a factor in the game, but this certainly is no nail-biter or tension-filled piece, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's actually more like a play (based on one), with three characters basically ping-ponging a diverse lot of subjects back and forth, with the crux of the story centering around the one young man's progression into the sales game/adulthood. The actors all do formidable jobs, with Spacey clocking in his usual fast-talking, smart aleck with a lot of the funnier written lines. Facinelli, definitely one to watch for in the future, delivers a solid showing as the ultra-straight mid-westerner who's still wading in a mini-pool of naiveté. And DeVito, who I personally have been pretty critical against over the past few years, essentially razzing on his staple performances in various two-bit productions, actually stretches his thespianatic muscles for a change, and delivers one of the deeper roles of his career. You can't help but feel the poor bastard's pain all over the place. Pretty rough.

The film on the whole is actually kind of uneven, with the first thirty minutes or so concentrating more on the hip one-liners and straight-talking sales bullshit, while the second half seriously switches into a high existential mode. Psychology students could have a field day with this film, with each of the prime players going through some kind of head-trip or another during the film's quick ninety minutes. Of course, it is ultimately DeVito's character who seems to anchor the gang's frustration, with just enough resolve left in his heart to do something about the situation. But even then, the game is played out mostly in the mind of the viewer. Plot is actually secondary in this film, with the "big kahuna" dopplegangering as the big client for whom the boys await, and the mid-life crisis which DeVito's character is seemingly going through. All in all, this film is to be suggested to those who enjoy the plotless, deep character studies rife with conversations on top of conversations, on top of a few more conversations. But I certainly wouldn't recommend this to anyone really looking for an interesting "story", which this film only eludes to, or tension, suspense and drama, three other noticeably absent members of this film. Like actors and theatre in general? Then see it. Don't enjoy "talky" movies and think theatre is "boring"? Skip this puppy or wait till video. That way, you could fall asleep and nobody'll be the wiser.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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