H. I. McDonough (said like “hi”)
Is just a simple, laid-back guy.
He doesn’t really have a job,
But likes convenience stores to rob.
Every time the crook is caught,
A cop named Ed takes Hi’s mug shot.
Due to their rendezvous, though grim,
Hi falls for Ed, and she for him.
They wed when Hi’s freed by his jailer
And settle down within a trailer.
Through frequent practice, Ed discovers
They’re unproductive as two lovers.
Hi’s past will not permit adoption;
Therefore, it seems they have one option.
Unpainted furniture big shot
Nathan Arizona’s got
Quintuplets. Hi and Ed decide
To take one as their joy and pride.
Hi, after all the babes’ hi-jinks,
Takes Nathan, Jr. (well, he thinks).
They love him as their very own,
But soon the couple aren’t alone.
Two friends of Hi’s drop in, in spite
Of breaking out of jail that night.
But Hi dreams something that appalls,
The demon biker Leonard Smalls,
Who’s hot on Nathan, Jr.’s trail
To send Hi somewhere worse than jail.
When Hi gets angry at his boss,
It ends, of course, with his job loss.
Hi robs a store, with little to lose,
And one long funny chase ensues.
Since criminality’s no savior,
Ed is mad at Hi’s behavior.
Hi thinks, without him there, his wife
Might have a more fulfilling life.
Before he leaves, though, Hi’s pals learn
Of Nathan, Jr., who could turn
Into their gold mine, so they take
The child for a ransom’s sake.
Then, by a full bank, they’re enticed
And bring the baby for a heist.
Forgetting Nathan at the scene,
The two don’t get away quite clean.
Hi and Ed reach the scene of the crime
In search of Nathan just in time
For Smalls to snatch the little one,
But Ed grabs Nathan back and runs.
Hi’s punished for his escapade
But blows Smalls up with a grenade.
The babe’s returned by Hi and his spouse
To Nathan Arizona’s house,
And, in a dream that transcends laughter,
Hi sees their happy ever after.

I wrote that Millennium Actress is probably the weirdest film on my list, and it is, but Raising Arizona is a close second. Every character’s behavior and dialogue are so out there that the film is almost one long string of laughs. Raising Arizona is one of the few movies done by the Coen brothers that I’ve seen or want to see, and it’s certainly their funniest, as evidenced by its placement on AFI’s top 100 comedies list (#31).

Each actor pours the maximum amount of quirk into every scene. Nicolas Cage as Hi is the kind of guy who craves the excitement of robbing convenience stores with empty guns and panty hose over his head. Holly Hunter as Ed is a poor example of a police officer, insisting that Hi kidnap a child for her, but this is tempered by her realization of their wrongdoing at the end and subsequent return of Nathan, Jr. Trey Wilson is also a hoot as Nathan Arizona, Sr., the kind of loving father who just stares at the ceiling when there’s a noise upstairs or lays down a presumably loaded gun in a baby’s crib (did anyone else notice that?!). John Goodman and William Forsythe as Gale and Evelle Snoats, Hi’s buddies, are the most hilarious of all, as they scream for extended periods of time for either no reason or a very good reason.

The source of all this humor is, of course, the Coen Brothers’ inspired script, which blends white trash criminal stupidity with Hi’s almost poetic narration. Their unique camera angles also give us the hilarious points of view of anything from the biker’s motorcycle to the crawling babies to Hi’s backside. Plus, there are some great enduring lines (“Well, okay then”; “Turn to the right!”) and scenes, such as the Snoats’ breakout, which is like a bizarre reimagining of the climax to The Shawshank Redemption, though some years before that film was released. Some portions of the middle act pursuit (one of the funniest film chases ever) even reminded me of some chase scenes in The Matrix.

It’s unfortunate that the filmmakers once again had to throw in a good amount of foul language and a rather violent death by explosion. Still, Raising Arizona is a well-made laugh-a-minute fun ride which manages some transcendent ideas that make the final scenes actually rather touching.

Best line: (the Snoats brothers) AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! (if you’ve seen the film, you understand what part I mean)

Other best line: (Evelle Snoats, referring to some balloons) “These blow up into funny shapes and all?” (convenience store clerk) “Well, no, unless round is funny.”

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: 5
Originality: 9
Watchability: 6
Other (language, violence, and some subject matter): -9
TOTAL: 32 out of 60

Next: #283: Puss in Boots

© 2014 S. G. Liput