Any movie with the names Joel and Ethan Coen attached to it is worth seeing. And their 1987 effort Raising Arizona is no exception. It stars Nicolas Cage as H.I. McDonnough, a retired, convicted, armed robber, and Holly Hunter as Edwina “Ed” McDonnough, H.I.’s policewoman wife.
Together, they make an odd yet somewhat loveable couple who wants nothing more than to have a child of their own.
Unfortunately, there is trouble in paradise when a doctor tells the happy couple that they cannot conceive. And thanks to H.I.’s bank-robbing days, adoption is out of the question.
When “biology and other people’s opinions conspired to keep us childless,” as H.I. puts it, he and his wife hatch an unbelievable plot: they decide to kidnap a baby from the local furniture tycoon, Nathan Arizona, whose wife just had quintuplets.
Following the hilarious kidnapping of Nathan Jr., H.I. and Ed find themselves in a situation they can’t handle. Insurance, diapers and picking the right name become daunting tasks for the couple, whose snatching of Nathan Jr. has attracted the attention of some unwanted characters.
One of those characters is Leonard Smalls (“My friends call me Lenny, only I ain’t got no friends.”), a motorcycle-riding figment of H.I.’s nightmares. He materializes and goes on the hunt for Nathan Jr. so he can collect the $25,000 reward offered by Nathan Sr.
On top of that, there’s the McDonnough’s friends, Glen and Dot, another married couple (brilliantly portrayed by Sam McMurray and Frances “Fargo” McDormand), whose constant questions and out of control children put Ed on edge. When Glen realizes where H.I. and Ed “adopted” their child, he makes plans of his own for claiming the coveted reward.
Raising Arizona, with its captivating characters and unusual story, is one of the finer films made during the eighties. From the metaphorical prison escape involving actors John Goodman and William Forsythe to the infamous Huggies robbery scene, it’s a great movie whose enduring message is best summed up by H.I.: “Sometimes it’s a hard world for small things.”
Marta Rusek can be reached at email@example.com