|Nothing But Trouble (1981)
|Dan Aykroyd (Screenplay) and Peter Aykroyd (Story)
|Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Demi Moore, Valri Bromfield, Taylor Negron and Bertila Damas
“I don’t know how much more crap I can take!” – Diane
Financial advisor Chris Thorne (Chase) takes a road trip headed for Atlantic City with sexy Diane (Moore) and two Brazilian friends, Fausto (Negron) and Renalda (Damas). On the way they take a detour and inadvertently wind up in a small town called Valkenvania. There Chris misses a stop sign and is pulled over by cop Dennis (Candy). Then the quartet is brought before the justice of the peace in Valkenvania; one Judge Alvin “J.P” Valkenheiser (Aykroyd). Then all hell breaks loose for the gang.
This is one kooky movie. I remember back in the day renting it on VHS and being completely blown away by it’s absurdity and I honestly didn’t know what to make of it. The star power here had me expecting good things but the over-the-top nature and silliness of the whole thing left me feeling very cheated. Now thirty years later and thanks to developing a healthy interest in all sorts of cult films and oddities over the years I found myself compelled to purchase the lavish Blu-ray issued by Shout Factory and get re-acquainted with this oddball comedy that’s positively reeking with horror undertones.
The fact that some of the movie’s imagery stayed with me for that long was an indicator that something was done right. In fact; the whole look of the film is really good. Writer and director Aykroyd had a sizeable budget to realize his vision and his Valkenvania, a real hell hole of a place, is a mini-wonder to behold visually. It didn’t hurt that Aykroyd also had DP Dean Cundey who had a great track record of lensing some classic horror films like John Carpenter’s “Halloween” (1978), “The Fog” (1980), “The Thing” (1982) and others.
Aykroyd really let’s loose on the horrific aspect of “Nothing But Trouble”. Once Chris and Diane are imprisoned inside a huge mansion their discoveries of what’s been taking place is nothing short of disturbing. It’s laced with black humor (the bit about Jimmy Hoffa, for one) but this is really sordid stuff in what was advertised as a mainstream comedy with established stars. There’s some fairly grotesque imagery; like the Judge’s make-up and a pair of malformed twins that are his grandchildren. There’s also a quite disturbing scene where the Judge passes sentence on four people who’d been drinking and taking drugs (an early appearance here by Daniel Baldwin). He quickly sentences them to death and sends them to the Bone Cruncher, a carnival like ride that ends up throwing the gang into a machine that proceeds to strip them to their…well…bones. It’s not shown explicitly but this is fairly gruesome stuff.
What also makes sure “Nothing But Trouble” is difficult to classify is trying to align these horror elements with comedy that ranges from subtle to completely over-the-top. Chase brings his usual schtick to the proceedings and if you’re a fan of his work then many of his jokes will land with success. Candy is always a treat to watch and his role as Dennis the cop is sort of a melancholy one. Candy plays him relatively straight as someone who’s conscience of what is happening in the hellhole that is Valkenvania has gotten to him. But then Candy also plays Dennis’s sister, Eldora, who is a mute and who winds up marrying Chris with the full blessing of the Judge. Here’s where Candy’s silly side gets more of a showcase. Aykroyd goes full blown nuts in his role and overacts on every occasion (and his nose looks like a penis). A scene where he resides over a group of rap musicians (Tupaq Shakur among them) takes things into really absurd comic territory and is just one of many head scratchers here. Aykroyd also plays one of the malformed twins to top things off. Amongst these broad performances from the comic legends it’s good to see how Moore holds her own, does not get overshadowed and delivers a really fine, and balanced, performance.
“Nothing But Trouble” gets better with each viewing. I genuinely appreciate all the effort that went into the film even though I think a lot could have been handled better. The ending for sure could have used more thought but overall this is an original piece of work that that sticks with the viewer long afterwards. In the end that makes for a solid directorial debut for Aykroyd.