Unfortunately I realised just a little too late and I ended up blowing 5 valuable teenage bucks and a couple hours watching Nothing But Trouble on VHS. I was predictably underwhelmed and immediately wrote this film off as an incredible misfire.
Now some 20 years later I spotted a cruddy DVD copy in the second hand shop and thought another two bucks might allow me to exact my revenge in a scathing review. Rewatching things told me two things, the first is that Nothing But Trouble is still not very good, the second is that it is so dark, so experimental and so almost subversive, that I couldn’t possibly have appreciated it fully at 17.
Amazing given the fact that the director and co-star is ‘I pissed on the memory of John Belushi with Blues Brothers 2000 – Dan Ackroyd’, but make no mistake this is some weird stuff right here.
As many harmless fish out of water tales goes the film starts harmlessly enough. Investment analyst Chris (Chevy Chase) takes a romantic target in Diane (Demi Moore) and a couple of loud, rich and eccentric Brazilian eeeediots on a fact finding mission to investigate a large scale investment opportunity.
Only they never make it. Instead, a routine traffic violation in Valkenvania leads to a full blown car chase and an impromptu trip to the courthouse in the dead of night.
At this point you may rightfully be mentally rewinding to mutter ‘Valkenvania?’ to yourself…
The by the book cop (John Candy) escorts the now edgy quartet to the judge’s abode, a hoarder’s junkyard paradise in the middle of nowhere. Here they meet the Judge (Ackroyd), an elderly, grotesque and nutty man who is as kooky as all outdoors. After a two minute court session the Judge passes sentence and the travellers are remanded for the night in the bowels of the building.
After another late night sentencing ends with some more uppity accuseds being summarily and bloodily executed Chris and Diane decide escape is the only option. But how to find a way through a maze, torture chamber, slaughterhouse combo that is the Judge’s home?
To this point the film was merely obviously low budget and strange, the insane Judge really being the only totally over the top element. But hold onto your butts folks.
Of course the escape cannot go smoothly as they discover the labyrinthine home is booby trapped and rigged every which way with theme park style slides within, and freakshow candidates both inside and out. Example: John Candy plays the Judge’s mute daughter who is hot for Chris, and a pair of amorphous humanesque blobs toil away in the junk piles outside.
There is a formal dinner set in a dining room that would make Wallace and Gromit proud – aside from the dick-nose part (you’ll have to see the film) and a Digital Underground (featuring a fresh faced Tupac performance in the courtroom that is so funky the Judge himself is impelled to accompany the old school hip-hop group on the organ.
Insanity indeed. Nothing But Trouble comes across as a bizarre alternate Saturday Night Live (which Ackroyd and Chase were members of), with a plotline that serves only as a framework for nutty skits, crazy characters and of course “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Digital Underground” performance.
Only this is more out there than any SNL gig.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. It’s dark. It’s different. It’s subversive and I felt legitimately uneasy at certain points. It’s just not enough of any of those things to be worthy of more than a footnote in the annals of misguided 90s comedies, where it sits alongside Freaked, Tank Girl and Brain Smasher: A Love Story.