Nothing but Trouble (1991)

You know how people always complain that Hollywood isn’t doing anything new, constantly churning out CGI-filled remakes and comic book movies? They should really check out this bit of absolute insanity, one of the last all practical effects films, which is literally an auteur moment from the pure id of Dan Aykroyd.

Nothing but Trouble started after producer Robert K. Weiss went to a movie with Dan and Peter Aykroyd. That movie was Hellraiser, as Weiss had a fractured rib and it hurt to laugh. Once the movie started, the three were shocked to see people laughing, which gave them the idea to create a horror comedy.

Peter remembered an event where Dan was pulled over in a small upstate New York town, had to pay $50 and then endure a four-hour cup of tea with the town’s justice of the peace. That started the process, with Dan using dreams — like the giant mutant babies — and the study of the ever-burning town of Centralia, PA.

After John Hughes and John Landis turned it down, Aykroyd decided to direct and play two heavy makeup roles, which only added to his stress once filming began. Most of its $40 million budget secured Chevy Chase — who repeatedly screamed at cast members and would yell that he was more important than Aykroyd — and the movie’s elaborate sets and effects.

That said, it’s been said that Chevy would call up various co-stars at night, after filming, to apologize for what he perceived to be stressed out behavior. If you ask me, that’s the traditional behavior of an abuser. Billy Murray said it best. Medium talent.

Luckily, Aykroyd had a great crew who rallied around him (one crew member even threatened to drop a brick on Chase’s head) to make something really special. Or weird. It depends on your point of view. I actually love this movie, which is completely disgusting and disquieting, two things which I know made audiences hate it. Yet I must remain the champion of the films that are lost and forgotten.

When financial publisher Chris Thorne (Chase) meets lawyer Diane Lightson (Demi Moore), he decides to invite her along on a trip to meet clients in Atlantic City. Joining them are the wealthy and oh so abrasive siblings Fausto and Renalda Squiriniszu (Taylor Negron, who is missed greatly in these parts, and Bertila Damas).

After running a stop sign in the small village of Valkenvania and attempting to leave the scene of the crime, they’re all arrested by officer Dennis Valkenheiser (John Candy, whose star power got this made) and taken before the town’s judge, 106-year-old Alvin Valkenheiser (Aykroyd). After Chris offends the judge — I feel that this role may be the closest Chase came to playing himself outside of Community — he sends them all to jail.

Meanwhile, a bunch of drunk drivers are sent to a murderous rollercoaster called Mr. Bonestripper while everyone else is invited to a horrifying dinner of sausages driven around on a model train. Soon, everyone is on the run, trying to escape the denizens of the town, like Alvin’s mute granddaughter Eldona (Candy again) and the deformed Bobo (played by Aykroyd) and Lil’ Debbull. Also: Digital Underground shows up.

Again, for better or worse, this movie is all Aykroyd. The police badges, seen in the revolving frames on the judge’s bench, are actual badges from his personal collection. He’s been a lifelong police supporter, which is interesting given this film’s conspiratorial tone that all of the cops are in on it.

I’m of the belief that this film is a success. It’s not afraid to be completely unhinged and blow through a budget — but it’s all on the screen — using the set of High Noon to create the most lunatic setting for a film I’ve ever seen.

The YouTube series Good Bad Flicks is a big inspiration for a lot of what I write. Check out their amazing breakdown of this film and how it was made for even more.

You can watch this for free on VUDU.

2 thoughts on “Nothing but Trouble (1991)”

  1. The set design and production values on this are amazing. That can not be denied. Visually, it is a work of art.

    It’s ironic that you reviewed this movie after Under the Silver Lake. I had to watch Silver Lake a second time–without paying attention to the story–and just LOOK at the sets. You can see that everything, down to the tinest trinket, had a reason and purpose to the character’s motivations. I recall a review on The Green Lantern on You Tube, and they made a point of calling out the set design choices. For example: why did the villian (The Yellow Latern? that got all bloated and f’d up on yellow energy) have all the lava lamps?

    Now, maybe that’s not what’s going on with NBT, but it is also a film that, after watching it once, I had to back and just pay attention to the sets. While the film bombed and is not a classic, as a visual artpiece, it’s astounding. They wanted to make Dan’s character a crazy, unhinged hoarder (to the point of hoarding human bodies), they did it.

    Also: Valkenvania and that Boris poster would have sold it. It need a “crazy” poster to convey the movie. I just think the other title and poster gave you no teaser as to what you were walking into.

    Like

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