Nothing But Trouble (1991) — Welcome to Dan Aykroyd’s nightmare

“You people are sick, wicked, funky, misanthropic, co-dependent animals! And I won’t have my sister, who was once the Queen of the Mardi Gras, sitting at a table with a pickle-shooting train!”

Justin’s rating: Demi Moore couldn’t have been happy to spend a whole movie in that single outfit.

Justin’s review: In the annals of great movie disasters, the aptly titled Nothing But Trouble often gets a mention. Dan Aykroyd’s sole directoral feature was plagued by a ballooning budget ($40 million — compare that to Jurassic Park, which was made for $63 million two years later!), concepts inspired by dreams, an inability to say “no” to any of the wackadoodle ideas that the crew suggested, heated friction with star Chevy Chase, and deeply abysmal reviews. Reportedly, Roger Ebert hated this so much that he outright refused to write a review on it.

Oh yeah, baby, bring it on. Mutant Reviewers is here to pick up the slack on the bizarre and neglected.

Suffice to say, Nothing But Trouble is a really weird — and at times, grotesque — film. It’s not for everyone. It’s not for most people. But it’s certainly something that never has been tried before, which is why Nothing But Trouble’s gained a small but devoted cult following over the three decades since its release. I think it’s about time that we covered it.

The titular trouble begins when four NYC yuppies (two of which are played by Chevy Chase and Demi Moore) take a driving detour through an obscure New Jersey town called Valkenvania. There they break some of the local speeding laws and get pulled over — but instead of getting a ticket, the foursome are thrown into jail and brought before an 106-year-old judge-slash-gadgeteer Alvin Valkenheiser (Aykroyd). Valkenheiser is not a fan of miscreants, having executed a few of them for fun.

That’s right, executed. Valkenvania may be located in New Jersey, but it exists in some horror dimension where monsters dwell and none may escape. The more the yuppies learn about Valkenvania, the more they encounter people, places, and situations straight out of nightmares. I don’t know who dreamed up rollercoasters that kill people or towns with rusty drawbridges, but Silent Hill doesn’t have anything on this place.

It may not be that funny, even with Chase (who clearly is phoning it in), Aykroyd, and John Candy propping this up, but Nothing But Trouble is like taking a dark ride through some sort of twisted amusement park attraction. It doesn’t have to make sense so long as it keeps your attention with an escalating series of absurd sights. And when you get into that mode (and stop trying to make sense of this), this movie gets pretty enjoyable. Well, at least fascinating. By the half-hour mark, it settles into your mind that you’re in the presence of a very out-of-bounds story experience that’s only going to get crazier from here.

Grotesque it may be, Nothing But Trouble is that special kind of weird that appeals to that gross-out kid inside us all. Well, inside some of us. Inside Todd. Todd’s the weird one who likes this, look at HIM funny, please.

Didja notice?

  • Really ancient GPS devices
  • The super macabre speeding billboard sign
  • Cop car has rockets?
  • The decorations as they enter the town — and the drawbridge
  • Lots of toasters
  • Judge desk coming up through the floor
  • And a trap door into the dungeon
  • These cops are packing serious heat
  • The Bonestripper is a literal ride experience
  • Ants on a log!
  • And John Candy in drag, why not
  • The dinner train is pretty terrific
  • Room of baby dolls, bat room, or the gravestone room? Take your pick.
  • And he just took his nose off
  • Giant fat baby men
  • And now your regularly scheduled mid-film rap number with Tupac

One comment

  1. While he may not have done a written review, Ebert was willing to pan it along with Siskel on their show. Starts at the five minute mark.

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