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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/4/99

Raising Arizona
1987 (1999) - 20th Century Fox

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Raising Arizona Film Ratings: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/B+

Specs and Features

94 mins, PG-13, widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layer, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailers for Raising Arizona, Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing, three television spots, cast and crew info insert booklet, film-themed menu screens, scene access (21 chapters), language: English & French (DD 3.0), subtitles: English & Spanish, Close Captioned

"One day I decided to make my own crawdad."

There just aren't enough Coen Brothers movies, theatrically or on DVD in my opinion. I really dig that Coen Brothers style. It's hyper, it's violent (and that isn't necessarily physically), and boy is it funny, funny, funny. Raising Arizona is my all-time favorite Coen Brothers film, (so far), but I'm more than willing to see all the upcoming films they have coming up for the rest of our lives together.

Raising Arizona follows the adventures of a white trash couple H.I. McDonnough (pronounced Hi - played by Nic Cage) and his wife Ed (Holly Hunter). In the pre-credit sequence, we pretty much have set-up for us everything we need to know about the film. Hi is a career criminal (his problem is recidivism - he's a "repeat offender"), but for the love of a pretty young booking cop (Ed), he decides to stand up and fly straight. So, Hi and Ed get married, and quickly start the merry road to children, figuring their life was so full of happiness, that they had enough to share with a critter. They try and try to have children, but to no avail. A trip to the doctor leads them to discover that that Ed's insides are "a rocky place where Hi's seed can find no purchase". They try to adopt, but Hi's criminal record is too long to be salvaged by Ed's police career. Depression sets in and they lose all hope, until a faithful night when they find that Nathan Arizona, a famed unpainted furniture salesman, just fathered the Arizona quints. They logically deduce that since the Arizonas have so many, when they have so few, why not share? So Ed and Hi set off to "adopt" a young son.

The opening itself is worth seeing, no, buying this disc. I've never laughed so hard at a movie, before or since seeing Raising Arizona the first time. It's just stupidly, fast-paced funny. The rest of the film plays out at that same pace, with characters moving in and out of the story, including John Goodman and William Forsythe as two prison escapee friends of Hi's, who are looking to make some quick money. There's also Hi's boss Sam McMurray (from The Tracey Ullman Show), and his wife Frances McDormand, as a couple with children from hell, looking to swing. And then there's Randall "Tex" Cobb, as a bounty hunter (also from hell) who kills bunnies and has a tattoo exclaiming "Mama didn't love me".

I can't say enough about this film, other than that you need to see it. It's pretty much a must-own for anyone who loves comedy. The writing is solid, the acting is top notch and the directing isn't anything to laugh at either. The camerawork, done by Men In Black director Barry Sonnenfeld, is genius and really sets the mood. It's just a well-made film.

The DVD isn't too shabby either. It's a widescreen transfer done at 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancing. It looks pretty good though, but the picture would have benefited by a new transfer with anamorphic thrown in. The film isn't digital looking at all, but there is some noise reduction going on in some of the scenes. Watch the fingerprint section in the opening chapter (4 minutes into it), and you'll see some pretty obvious edge enhancement. Other than that, it's a very clean picture, even for a non-anamorphic transfer. Throughout the film there is some noticeable grain, but it's supposed to be there. The sound is a crisp Dolby Digital 3.0 surround track. I liked a lot of the speaker play going on in the sound field, especially in the diaper robbery sequence, with all the car squealing, bullets flying, and dogs barking under that yodeling theme. It's pretty sweet.

There are a lot of small extras here, including the Fox/Coen Brothers trailers (Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink and Raising Arizona), some TV spots, and a cast and crew index on the inside of the liner note insert. I would have really dug a commentary track and a making of featurette, but I love this movie enough that I just glad to own it on DVD. When movies this quirky come out on disc, I'm a happy guy. For me, these are the happy days -- the salad days, as they say, of DVD.

Todd Doogan
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