Slapstick comedy may seem like an easy thing to achieve in the movies but it’s probably more difficult than heart-rending tragedy.
“Nothing But Trouble” (citywide) is Dan Aykroyd’s directorial debut. He also wrote it, plays two roles and surrounds himself with such funny-makers as Chevy Chase and John Candy. So why isn’t it funnier?
Maybe it’s because Aykroyd took on too much and got in over his head. Or maybe the whole project should have been junked from the get-go.
It’s about a smug financial adviser (Chase) and an attorney (Demi Moore) who, along with two rich “Brazillionaires” (Taylor Negron and Bertila Adams), take a wrong turn off the New Jersey Turnpike and end up in a waste dump byway presided over by a scurvy-looking potentate named Alvin Valkenheiser (Aykroyd). Dispensing justice from inside his Gothic clapboard mansion, Alvin reroutes his numerous offenders into extinction.
The intention seems to be a slap-happy cross between “Psycho” and “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein,” and if you’re in the mood to be clobbered with stale jokes, it might seem fitfully amusing. Occasionally, the talents of the cast burn through the haze of misfires and remembered routines.
Aykroyd himself is the chief standout. In his primary role as the decaying Valkenheiser, Aykroyd, encased in make-up but still recognizeable, is gloriously smarmy. He can turn the gobbling down of a hot dog dripping with condiments into a great sick joke--if that’s your idea of a good time. John Candy, who also plays two roles, is a stand-out (literally) in one of them--as Alvin’s tubby smitten granddaughter. It’s too bad her character is a mute; Candy might have been able to come up with a comic voice to match his twittering eyelashes and come-hither prance.
Some of the make-up effects by David Miller are ingenious--maybe too ingenious. Two characters in particular, mutant toddlers swaddled in billows of fat, are too grotesque for the film’s bozo atmosphere. They might have waddled in from a David Lynch fever dream. Aykroyd, both as actor and director, probably has it in him to do more than this tossed-off joke book of grotesquerie. Anyone who gave the kind of performance that he delivered in “Driving Miss Daisy” shouldn’t value his talents so lightly.
‘Nothing But Trouble’
Dan Aykroyd: Bobo, Alvin Valkenheiser
John Candy: Eldona, Dennis Purdah
Chevy Chase: Chris Thorne
Demi Moore: Diane Lightston
A Warner Bros. presentation of an Applied Action production, released by Warner Brothers. Director Dan Aykroyd. Producer Robert K. Weiss. Screenplay by Dan Aykroyd. Cinematographer Dean Cundey. Editor Malcolm Campbell. Costumes Deborah Nadoolman. Music Michael Kamen. Production design William Sandell. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.
MPAA-rated: PG-13 (mild violence, strong language).