77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 1998
Format: VHS Tape
This movie is much more than an outrageous and unique comedy. One reason for its cult following has been consistently missed by the critics: repeated viewings reveal surprising layers of meaning and an intricate web of symbolism.
At the heart of this film is the timeless debate known as "nature vs. nurture": are we more a product of our genes, or of our environment? How much of an effect does our upbringing have on our likelihood to turn out as either a law-abiding member of society (a society which in this movie is of dubious merit, as represented by Hi's job and his unctuous boss) or as a criminal deviant from its norms?
The symbolism in this film is rich and evocative--while always contributing to the comedy. Note how often the adult characters cry and carry on like infants. Note the way the escaped convicts are "born" into the outside world. Note the marriage of a convict and a police officer, and the difference in their families visible in the brief wedding shot. Note the juxtaposition of milk poured over cereal with the infant's feeding bottle, as Evelle observes, "Ya don't breast feed him, he'll hate you for it later. That's why we wound up in prison." And note the frequent use of phrases such as "that's natural," as opposed to "you're not being true to your nature" or "mother didn't love me." As Hi observes, "maybe it's my upbringing, maybe it's just that my genes got screwed up, I don't know."
The quasi-biblical, poetical and aphorism-laden language the characters use in the-state-adjacent-to-Utah is both touching and funny. Every word of the film is a finely polished gem. Ed's little plan is "the solution to all our problems, and the answer to all our prayers." Her infertile womb is a "rocky place where my seed can find no purchase." And as Hi later writes in a touching letter to his dearest Edwina, "I feel the thunder gathering even now...I cannot tarry...better I should go, send you money, and let you curse my name." On the other hand, the crotchety Arizona characters also have a remarkable literalness of expression. A packet of balloons does not blow up into funny shapes, not "unless round is funny." And as the old codger in the bank robbery points out, "If I freeze, I can't rightly drop, and if I drop, I'm gonna be in motion!"
Even the music in this film is perfectly executed, from the hilarious yodeling and whistling of the main theme to the way the chilling accompaniment of a nightmare is later revealed to be a haunting children's nursery song, and then mutates into an ethereal melody in the film's final scenes. The characters, despite their flaws, are all surprisingly sympathetic. And the film is tightly constructed, without a single unnecessary scene or moment. It ends with a bang, not a whimper, its final words resonating with significance and yet leaving one wanting more, like a swift exit after a great punch line.
At the deepest core of this film lies a mystery wrapped in an enigma: who is the once-orphaned "motorcycle demon from hell," and what is his relation to Herbert I. McDonnough? The answer to this puzzle relates intimately to the "nature vs. nurture" theme. While I think I know the answer, I'll leave it for you to figure out, based on the clues ("show the tattoo!") liberally scattered throughout the film. "Okay then!"
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2000
I've seen Raising Arizona far more times than I can count. It is, in my humble opinion, next to Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove the most original, inventive comedy ever made.
The dialogue is absolutely razor-sharp -- plenty of examples are certainly readily available in the reviews preceding this one -- and the camera work is wonderful, as well. I'd rank Raising Arizona a VERY close second to Miller's Crossing in a list of the Coen's best films. It is admittedly not as visually stylish as Miller's Crossing (then again, very few films ever made are), and the storyline is not as cohesive as Miller's Crossing, Fargo, or Barton Fink. However, the film is so full of verbal gems that it definitely ranks as the Coen's best dialogue writing effort. Cage and Hunter are wonderful, and John Goodman and William Forsythe are absolutely perfect as the Snopes brothers.
Admittedly, the DVD is nothing very special. All you really get is the more durable medium and a widescreen format. Some kind of "The Making of..." mini-documentary, or better yet, a commentary option with two or three of the actors, the director of photography, or ideally the Coens themselves would have been a priceless addition to the DVD.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2002
The one that started it all. *Raising Arizona* is the first of a string of masterpieces continuing all the way up to *O Brother, Where Art Thou?* (*The Man Who Wasn't There* has fallen short of the adjective "masterpiece", in my view.) Joel & Ethan Coen, America's very best filmmakers, sloughed off the apprentice mentality so evident in *Blood Simple* and went for broke in this film, relying on their own creativity to bring their sensibilities to the movie-going world. In this particular case, the sensibility is often akin to the classic Warner Bros. cartoons with Bugs Bunny and friends. This is most evident in the movie's style, with its exaggerated perception, off-kilter compositions, speeding Steadicam, comical close-ups, over-the-top action, and sparkling-clean, eye-watering Pop color. (The DP on this film was Barry Sonnenfeld, who has gone on to direct some very bad films. This movie remains his career-high.) *Raising Arizona* is CINEMATIC filmmaking: the Coens successfully found the fine line between static presentation and overwrought, music-video-style camera intrusion, and they've walked that line ever since. The visuals are one thing. But the Coens also invest their plot and characters with the Warner cartoons' sensibility -- or lack thereof. Chaos, daffiness, and limitlessness reign supreme here, as in the old Warner shorts. The narration is exquisitely faux-literary, by way of redneck hominess: Nicolas Cage lays on the syrup over lines like "The doctor explained that her insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase." And like any cartoon worth its salt, the plot of the movie demands a suspension of everyday moral judgments: an infertile couple -- a former policewoman and her convenience-store-robber husband -- kidnap one of a set of quintuplets from a local furniture-store baron. After all, "they have too many!", so why can't H.I. and Edwina have just one? Heck, they'd be doing the Arizona family a favor! The rest of the story goes in predictably unpredictable directions, ranging from keenly funny to knee-slappingly hilarious. But as with all good comedies, *Raising Arizona* -- farce though it is -- has a serious undertow having to do with the longing for family, and the sadness of people who, for whatever reason, don't have one. Certainly the scene early in the film wherein H.I. attempts his kidnapping while the 5 adorable Arizona Quints gambol about on the floor (with the camera right at their level) will make any childless person feel an ache through their laughter.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 1999
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
I first saw this movie on a date, and my date didn't like it...and not coincidentally, there was no second date! Now I'm married, and fortunately for him, my husband loves the movie (or at least he claims he does). Our entire family loves this movie, which is infinitely quotable--we can come up with quotes from it that suit a wide variety of situations. As my mom says (who typically thinks it's a waste of time to see a movie more than once), it is the kind of movie that just gets funnier with repeat viewings. It is absolutely hilarious, though as other reviewers have pointed out, you either love it or hate it...."Maybe it was Utah." Check it out, and who knows? Before long, you'll be quoting away!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
You know the rest of the line. "Raising Arizona" is ranked #31 on the AFI's "100 years, 100 laughs" list. Regardless of its position, it's a classic.
Roger Ebert is usually highly perceptive, but his negative review of this film is beyond understanding. He says it has "a forced and mannered style". Well, of course it does. It's stylistically appropriate for this sort of material.
Apparently Mr Ebert was so busy reviewing films that he never bothered reading books. One of the things that makes "Raising Arizona" so wonderful is that the Coens have perfectly captured the forced and mannered style of crazy comic novels.
I have to say something about the superb BD transfer -- NO grain reduction, NO edge enhancement. It looks fantastic -- sharp, detailed, contrasty (in the good way), and with (where appropriate) vivid, comic-book-like colors. It is far superior to the LV and DVD editions.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2001
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
If you've come to be a fan of the Coen brothers by watching Fargo or O Brother Where Art Thou, be sure not to overlook their second movie, Raising Arizona. It's by far their funniest.
H.I. (Nic Cage) is a reformed convenience-store robber who marries Edwina (Holly Hunter), a policewoman. They try to conceive a child, but with no luck. They become bitter and despondent. H.I.'s reformation ends when he and Edwina decide to kidnap one of the many infants of Nathan and Florence Arizona, a couple recently blessed with quintuplets.
Hi's relationship with Edwina takes a turn for the worse when Gayle (John Goodman) and Evell (William Forsythe), freshly escaped from prison, invite him in on one of their schemes, a bank robbery.
The baby's father, Nathan Arizona, then hires a bounty hunter to get the boy back. It's a madcap comedy from start to finish, but the pace just gets wilder and wilder as the movie progresses.
This movie is chock full of hilarious dialogue and crazy action scenes. Absolutely none of it is believable; it's just an hour and a half of magnificent entertainment. All the actors get big laughs from me... possibly Frances McDormand most of all, as Dot, the jabbering lunatic wife of H.I.'s boss.
If you're a fan of Coen Brothers movies at all, and you haven't seen this one, please do watch it.
If you haven't seen any of their movies, Raising Arizona is probably the best place to start.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2003
For some reason, I had no idea that this was a Coen brothers production until the end of the movie. Then, when it was all over and the credits began to roll, it all finally made sense. In fact, I didn't know why I hadn't guessed it. Because this movie is so... Coen brothers.
Nicolas Cage plays Hi, a repeat inhabitant of the Tempe, Arizona prison, where he meets police officer Ed (Holly Hunter) and falls in love with her. After Hi's third parole, he agrees to give up his life of crime for Ed, and the two get married. Before long, they decide that they want nothing more than to start a family. Ed, however, is barren -- and they find that it's not exactly easy for a repeat offender to adopt a child.
When Nathan Arizona, owner of the furniture chain, Unpainted Arizona, is blessed with quintuplets, Hi and Ed decide that the Arizonas have more than they can handle -- so they decide to take one of the babies. But before Hi and Ed can settle into their new lives with little Nathan, Jr., Nathan Arizona offers a reward for the baby, and suddenly everyone's after him.
I honestly can't remember the last time I laughed so hard while watching a movie. I laughed so hard that I choked. I almost died -- but really, can you think of a better way to die? I can't.
Raising Arizona is bizarre and quirky -- and just the expression on Nicolas Cage's face throughout this movie (not to mention his wild hair) will keep you snickering from start to finish. Mix the perfectly ridiculous dialogue and the perfect amount of slapstick, and you've got the perfect addition to any DVD collection.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I realize that a title like the one above can seem like hyperbole, but this is not overstatement. I have watched hundreds, maybe thousands of movies in my life and this one always stands out.
An offbeat comedy about a childless couple who kidnap one of a set of quintuplets so they can have a complete family, this movie is close to perfect from beginning to end. Much as I enjoy all the Coen brothers works, this one always stands out as their best. It is an early gem of theirs, and stars people who were really at the beginning of their careers: Nicholas Cage, Holly Hunter and John Goodman.
From the courtship of Hi and Ed to the kidnaping of the Arizona baby to a botched convenience store robbery to a confrontation with a bounty hunter from Hell, this movie is filled with great moments. This movie is a modern classic and is one of the all-time best comedies.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2002
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
The Coen Brothers. You either love `em or you hate `em, right? There's very little middle ground where these boys are concerned. And that includes the professional critics. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? gets either an F or 500 Thumbs Up.
Me, I'm firmly entrenched in the love `em camp. Sure, their work presents a decidedly grim view of human nature, even in the comedies. Sometimes a little tenderness and humanity do manage to peek through, but that has nothing to do with why I am a fan and student of theirs. What I love is the sheer brilliance and depth of creativity that they continue to demonstrate on all fronts.
Take Raising Arizona, for instance. I've seen it 15 or 20 times by now, and I'm still mining its riches.
Sometimes I watch it for the obvious things, like the camera work; the trademark low-to-high angles, the framing and composition of nearly every shot, the character's eye views when Hi is being twirled over one of his prison buddy's head or lying on his side on the floor of the trailer, the saturated, hyper-realistic color of the daytime Arizona desert or the nighttime interior of a convenience store.
Other times I focus in on the writing. Maybe it's the dialog and it's context, like the bank robbery scene. "All right you hayseeds, freeze and get down on the floor. Well which one is it gonna be? Freeze or get down on the floor?.... Where'd all the tellers go? They're down on the floor, like you told `em." Or the convenience store escape scene, where Hi and Ed alternate between near hysterical argument and Hi calmly giving driving directions to Ed.
Or maybe it's the richness, subtlety, and attention to detail of the storyline; the shopkeeper who starts counting when commanded to ("one Mississippi, two Mississippi, ...) and who is still counting when we drive back by later ("971 Mississippi, ...), the convict buddy who steps back into the trailer to pick up a copy of Dr. Spock after kidnapping Nathan Jr., the growling inmate who is still mopping the floor every time Hi returns to prison, making progress at glacial speed.
Or take my favorite recent example. I'm watching the movie with my wife, who is in my opinion, the most talented continuity expert not working in Hollywood. In the middle of the c-store holdup scene, when Hi runs out and jumps in the car, she says, "Where are the Huggies?" A minute or two later, Hi reaches down out of the speeding car and gathers in the Huggies, which were lying in the road.
This last time, it was the sound that caught my attention. Not just the music, but the entire sound package. Don't get me wrong. The music by Carter Burwell, especially the banjo, yodeling and whistling, ranks right up there in awesome inventiveness with the zither music of Anton Karas in The Third Man and the work that Bernard Herrmann did for Alfred Hitchcock, and anyone who includes a smidgen of Ode to Joy on the banjo over the closing credits certainly has my vote.
But wait, there's more! Pay attention when Glen comes to Hi's trailer to fire him. After Hi tells him to lower his voice, Glen says he'll talk "... as loud as I PLEASE!" When he raises his voice on the word Please, it is the only word that produces an echo from the surrounding desert. Is that subtle enough for you?
And I've only scratched the surface....
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
"Raising Arizona" tells the story of an ex-con with a penchant for robbing convenience stores, H.I. McDonnough, played by Nicholas Cage and his new wife Ed, short for Edwina, played by and expressly written for Holly Hunter by the Brothers Coen.
Ed and Hi find themselves together after Ed takes Hi's mugshots and while Hi serves three months in prison then paroled , they marry. The film has some great scenes and one liners galore like the prison scene where a group is receiving counselling:
Prison Counsellor: Why do you say you feel "trapped" in a man's body.
"Trapped" Convict: Well, sometimes I get the menstrual cramps real hard.
After a couple months of wedded bliss the McDonnough's need to concieve a child but with no luck, their failed attempt at adoption and their subsequent kidnapping of Nathan Jr. nathan Jr. is one of the famous Arizona Quintuplets who belong to furniture mogul and owner of all Upainted Arizona stores, Nathan Arizona, Sr.(Trey Wilson) & his wife Florence. The kidnapping highlights the plot.
Enter Hi's prison buddy brothers, Gale and Evelle Snoats, freshly escaped out of the pokey and "the finest pair that ever broke air," according to Hi. The brothers Snoats are played to the hilt by John Goodman and William Forsythe. They have a plan to get Hi back in the business with a bank heist of the local hayseed Farmers and Merchants Bank down the way.
Also in the McDonnough's social circle is Hi's work buddy and swinger, Glen (Sam McMurray) his swinger wife, Dot (an excellent, albeit small part for Frances McDormand)and their bratty passel of kids.
The hunt for the baby Arizona is on with Randall 'Tex' Cobb playing Leonard Smalls, a bounty hunter who is hired by Nathan Sr. to find Nathan Jr and bring him back home to his mamma.
Many hilarious and touching scenes occur in this fine movie from the Coen brothers with some top-notch acting and fleshed out characatures.
Highly Recommended For Multiple Viewings!