In this flick by the Coen brothers, Nicolas Cage plays a fairly simple-minded, a-few-fries-short-of-a-happy-meal recidivist by the name of H.I. McDunnough who, repeatedly getting in and out of prison, is swept off his feet by Ed (Holly Hunter), the officer taking mugshots. Hearing her fiance has left her, he proposes to her (she accepts), intent on getting out, keeping on the right side of the law, and leaving his jailbird life behind. Wiping the slate clean. Everything seems to be coming up roses but when Edwina starts craving for a baby, their relationship is thrown out of whack as she finds out, to her chagrin, that she’s barren. Desperate to be a mom and not willing to take no for an answer, she pushes Hi into stealing a baby of Nathan Arizona’s (his wife’s just brought into the world “more than they could handle” after taking fertility pills for a good while).
Good, now they have a baby. The equilibrium is seemingly restored for the time being. But the leopard doesn’t change his spots and Hi is finding hard to keep on the right track, running on the dreary treadmill of routinary family life. When it rains, it pours and everything is thrown out of balance again as his former inmates – Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe)- break out of prison and, as fugitives, seek sanctuary at his place. As they endeavour to drag Hi back into his old life, the past seems to be catching up with him and Ed doesn’t try to mask her displeasure. Things take a turn when Gale and Evelle hear that Hi’s son isn’t really his, but Nathan Arizona’s -who offers a bounty to whomever brings him back- and so they backstab Hi, looking to snatch the money. No honor among thieves.
This is where the true humor kicks in.They fall head over heels in love with the baby themselves and are dead set on keeping him. In this way, everything turns into a dog-eat-dog fight for the babe. But having said that, this is perhaps the only instance where I laughed myself silly. And it didn’t last. I’m sure the movie is all that and really something and I just missed out on it. But be that as it may, I know for a fact that It ain’t my jam. Sure, the movie had its moments, but if this is a comedy and comedies are to be judged on how many laughs they manage to elicit, then -and I hate to say this- this is a poor one. Fine irony is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t make for a deluge of laughs. Maybe some shy, polite couple of giggles but that’s it. And for my part, this won’t do. I want comedies that hurl me into laughing myself into stitches the exact same way I want horror flicks that get me shitting bricks and this comes about once in a blue moon only, as much as I hate to say.
Raising Arizona is all about situational irony, laughable turns, cheeky parodic jibes and language humor and as funny and sharp a satire as it is, it’s anything but your ruthless, laugh-till-you-cry comedy.