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Big Trouble in Big Trouble

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In the long tradition of American screwball comedies, Big Trouble, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and based on the novel by Dave Barry, is something of a return to form in a medium that has excelled in defying old conventions over the last few decades. Even though more modern screwballs have tended to drift away from the roots of their 30s-40s brethren, some still strive to be like Bringing Up Baby or Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Films like O Brother, Where Art Thou? and I Heart Huckabees have done a lot to blaze new trails for the genre, but as a result they have to drift away from the original idea of a screwball. Big Trouble does its best to respect the roots that truly make screwball comedies different from any other kind of film, including a very farcical plot, witty dialogue, a generous helping of slapstick, and a gentle romantic undertone or subplot.

Screwball comedies are really an American cinema form, and while no one has ever specifically written a cannon or rule guide for what a screwball entails, there are a few elements that are generally featured in every film. The entire plot is typically very farcical, as can be seen in movies like Arsenic and Old Lace, which the average person would dismiss as completely implausible, yet hilarious. Quick and witty dialogue is usually a mainstay of the genre as well, often grouping two or more characters into a conversation that doesn’t lose beat for a second. The rapid-fire deliver was so influential, thanks to movies like His Girl Friday, that it has become a mainstay in modern television, specifically in shows like Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, and 30 Rock. Of course, the use of slapstick is screwball comedies is not lost, either. Modern screwballs have become polarized ...

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... will be more eternal in a way, and that audiences of all times will be better able to relate.

The screwball comedy has not been an entirely static sub-genre of film. The times have shaped it as they have shaped any art form, and so the films that fall under that genre have changed as well. While Big Trouble would have seemed like a bastardization of multiple genres fifty years ago, the audience it was meant for can really appreciate it for what it is. The screwball comedy lives on not only in the classics that carved out the genre, but in the minds of modern screenwriters eager to lend homage to the form.

Works Cited

Belton, John. American Cinema/American Culture. 3 ed. New York City: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages, 2008. Print.

Big Trouble. Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld. Perf. Tim Allen, Renee Russo, Stanley Tucci. Walt Disney Video, 2002. DVD.
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