Yes, it’s some more Chevy Chase, hot from the griddle! The main creative driving force behind Nothing But Trouble, however, is writer/director Dan Aykroyd, who based this elaborate horror farce on his own experiences after getting a speeding ticket in a small town and getting hauled before an eccentric local judge. Warners were, understandably, keen to work again with the man behind The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters, and seem to have given Aykroyd free rein here; the result is an undisciplined, sometimes grotesque, but kind of watchable comedy that’s short on actual laughs, but does have a surreal quality and a wealth of star talent that makes it a one-of-a kind viewing experience.
Chris Thorne (Chase) is a financial publisher who seeks to impress Diane Lightson (Demi Moore) with his flash BMW; they take a drive down the New Jersey Turnpike, but are persuaded to stop off in the small town of Valkenvania, where they fall foul of a cop (John Candy) who takes them to Judge Alvin Valkenheiser (Aykroyd). The judge lives in a huge mansion that has hidden doors, trapdoors, ball-swamps, chutes and even a roller-coaster called a Bone-stripper. If this isn’t strange enough, there’s also room for such jazzy ephemera as two obese trolls, Bill Murray’s brother Brian, a Tupac Shakur cameo, John Candy in drag, and a performance by the inimitable Digital Underground, whose Humpty Dance is still regarded as one of the seminal works of the age.
Aykroyd’s original story makes more sense given that he was an established comic; Nothing But Trouble would cohere more if the couple were tv stars rather than drab financial figures, as it would better explain the judge’s interest in them; the back-story here seems raggely connected to the actual plot. There’s a very long build-up until Aykroyd is revealed under heavy prosthetics as the judge, and his performance is endearingly odd., shouting lines like ‘Put out that dog rocket’ and ‘What’s on your brians?’ A few of the sight gigs land, like Chris and Diane getting chased down a moving corridor, and the whole film has an impressive physicality that comes from big budgets and big imagination. It’s less durable that Chris is portrayed as a casual sexist and racist. ‘Not bad for a one eyed Russian immigrant’ is his opening zinger as he steps out of a NYC taxi.
Nothing But Trouble has nothing but a bad reputation, yet has a number of points of interest; this isn’t the sure-fire, confident comedy that Ghostbusters was, but does have a little of the same anything-goes energy. Chase seems disinterested, but Aykroyd makes up for that but adding layers of comedic detail that recall Beetlejuice. While not exactly a success, there’s reasons that this film has begun to pick up a reputation; while hard-core Chase fans may balk at some of the indignities here, Aykroyd’s surreal brand of anti-authoritarian humour rules this particular kingdom.
I’ve added Tupac below to provide a flavour on the nonsense here.