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copyright ©1999-2001

flick pick | Raising Arizona 1987
Directed by: Joel Coen
Written by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, John Goodman
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
darkly comic, whimsical
The verdict: / 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis The third time he meets her, on the occasion of his third arrest, convenience-store robber H.I. McDonough proposes to police officer Ed as she takes his mug shot down at the police station. H.I. promises to go straight if she’ll do him the honor of becoming his wife after he finishes this last stint in prison. Miraculously, Ed says yes. Married life goes along just swimmingly for the ex-con and ex-cop, until they begin trying to start a family. A visit to a doctor confirms that Ed is physically unable to get pregnant, and thus the couple will never be able to conceive a child. Unfortunately, H.I.’s rather colorful past means adoption is simply out of the question. When Ed and H.I. hear about the quintuplets that have just been born to a wealthy local furniture chain-store baron named Nathan Arizona, Ed’s so desperate to experience motherhood that she convinces H.I. that they should kidnap one of the babies. With Nate Jr. in the house, they’re all set to start enjoying the family life. But things get complicated when H.I.’s lowlife, convict friends break out of prison and show up on the McDonough doorstep.

Review The first time I saw this movie I was fourteen years old and at my best friend’s house, and when halfway through we finally acknowledged that we were both so bored we’d barely made it this far without falling into a deep, deep slumber, we fast-forwarded to the end and proclaimed Raising Arizona the dumbest movie we’d ever had the misfortune to rent. Years later, I saw Barton Fink, Fargo, and the Hudsucker Proxy, and became a big fan of the Coen Brothers, but still, I couldn’t quite bring myself to re-watch Raising Arizona, despite all assurances that it was hilarious. So on a recent weekday evening, I decided it was high time to get over my childhood prejudices and give it another try. And it’s amazing how the same things that seem so dumb when you’re a teenager – an almost tall-tale-like lack of realism with respect to character, plot, and dialogue – can seem so wonderful now that I’m a little older. Wacky, strange, and unpredictable, Raising Arizona just made me happy. The movie shows Nicolas Cage at his offbeat best, and features more deadpan funny, supremely quotable lines that you can shake a stick at. What’s hilarious is that the characters don’t realize how funny they are – they’re just being their quirky little redneck selves, and though the movie pokes fun at them, it’s in a loving, non-condescending manner. (My one quibble with the characterizations: I live in Arizona, and I don't know what accent these actors are attempting, but it's certainly not Arizonan). Spineless and dimwitted H.I., unctuous Nate Arizona, and the two bumbling escaped cons played by John Goodman and William Forsythe are all oddly endearing characters, likable despite their flaws and inadequacies. Raising Arizona is pure, inspired, zany fun. —reviewed by Y. Sun 

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