Raising Arizona | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Raising Arizona

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Joel and Ethan Coen's Road Runner comedy in overdrive, about a convenience-store bandit (Nicholas Cage) who swipes the infant son of an unfinished-furniture tycoon (he's got quints so he won't mind, Cage's wife insists), then has a hard time holding onto the kid. The snickering humor that percolated through the Coens' overly arch Blood Simple debut is the whole show here, and it's damn near hysterical. Like their baby-napping hero, the Coens steal from every source imaginable--from Warners animation to The Miracle of Morgan's Creek--though the kinetic social sniping of Larry Cohen and Jonathan Demme (minus the social penetration) seems closest to their own raucous hearts. The cartoon vision of southwestern tackiness doesn't cut very deep--it's superficial without apology--but the mise-en-scene is packed with clever clutter, and the kids-as-props gags (babies bouncing around a room like tiny billiard balls, etc) are as gratifyingly tasteless as they are sentimentally canny. Both brothers deserve credit for the sophomoric screenplay, though the hyperactive visuals (every shot's a screaming wide angle, and aggressive composition counts for more than interconnection) are the work of director Joel. With Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, Randall "Tex" Cobb, and Bill Forsythe and John Goodman as hilarious convict kin. (Oakbrook, River Oaks, Water Tower, Woodfield, Old Orchard, Ford City)

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