CAPSULE: NOTHING BUT TROUBLE (1991)

DIRECTED BY: Dan Aykroyd

FEATURING: Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy

PLOT: New York professionals are imprisoned by an ancient self-appointed judge in his ramshackle house inside his own New Jersey fiefdom.

Still from Nothing But Trouble (1991)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It turns out that what’s weird in Nothing but Trouble was originally intended to be funny, rather than uncanny. Who could tell?

COMMENTS: Nothing But Trouble proved to be a prophetic description of how this alleged black comedy about a provincial judge taking the law into his own hands would effect its stars’ careers. Heck, it’s even an embarrassment in the filmography of Tupac Shakur. John Candy, who wears a dress and models plus-size lingerie, emerges from the film with the most dignity intact. As the alleged star, charisma-less mogul Chevy Chase is so laid back that he seems totally disengaged. Chase is more a vehicle for delivering one-liners than he is a leading man; if the script doesn’t assign him good jokes (and this one doesn’t), his essential blandness shines through. Demi Moore’s character, a lawyer in hotpants, makes no sense at all. She’s a rich and powerful Manhattan lawyer who has to hitch a ride to Atlantic City with a strange bachelor for no better reason then that he’s sending out a vibe that says “I can’t carry this film myself, I desperately need a love interest.” She quickly turns from putative competent career woman into helpless damsel in distress. Jumping up to play a surprise blues riff on the organ during Digital Underground’s big rap number, Dan Aykroyd obviously thinks his character, withered old “Reeve” Valkenheiser, is a hilarious foil—I imagine he’s modeling his performance on Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice—but in reality the heat from the pounds of latex makeup he’s wearing has just made the actor temporarily delirious. At times—not always, mind you—Aykroyd’s prosthetic nose is shaped like the glans of a penis. Whether this is intentional or just a result of bad makeup continuity is anyone’s guess.

On the other hand, if name-brand stars are going to humiliate themselves, they might as well do it on a spectacular set. Nothing But Trouble‘s cluttered old haunted house, full of sliding panels, paintings with the eyes cut out (like in a 1930s Three Stooges short), and piles of skulls illogically piled at the bottom of slides, all plopped down in the middle of a Jersey junkyard, is a good (and expensive-looking) creation. There are surprises around every corner, like the “Bonestripper” roller coaster ride, the spontaneous rap music video, and the pair of morbidly obese adult babies who far surpass Valkenheiser in latex repulsiveness. This comedic train wreck concludes with two twist endings and a “Looney Tunes” sound effect—always a sign of desperation. Although the movie never quite slows down enough to become boring, there are no real laughs to be had, and this not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. The best way to salvage some entertainment value out of Nothing but Trouble to approach it in a spirit of mockery, with good companions and ample libations to soften the blow.

Nothing But Trouble has shown up multiple times in the “What Was That Weird Movie?” thread. Despite flopping at the box office, it proved to be natural filler for cable television—it was cheap to license but starred recognizable faces that would make people stop while flipping through the channels. Many people therefore saw, for example, the scene where Aykroyd takes off his nose, but didn’t know what they were watching.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Aykroyd here has lovingly, meticulously created a hideous, grotesque nightmare world nobody in their right mind would want to visit the first time around, let alone return to.”–Nathan Rabin, Onion A.V. Club

2 thoughts on “CAPSULE: NOTHING BUT TROUBLE (1991)”

  1. The weirdest thing about this film seems that I find it is being watched and considerably enjoyed at a lot of friends’ homes. Oh, and Dan Aykrod’s grotesque profile struck into a jaunty bliss when Tupac’s crew began their song. That remains the most head-scratching moment throughout the entire film, and in its own vexing awfulness, is something that induces the loudest and most inappropriate burst of laughter. And that heavy-handed blurb from Nathan Rabin of the A.V. Club is just the cringe-cherry on the snicker pie.

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