Saturday, November 21, 2015

BIG BULLY (1996)

Directed By: Steve Miner 
Written By: Mark Steven Johnson 
Cinematography By: Daryn Okada 
Editor: Marshall Harvey 

Cast: Rick Moranis, Tom Arnold, Julianne Phillips, Faith Prince, Curtis Armstrong, Don Knotts, Jeffrey Tambor, Tony Pierce, Stuart Pankin, Blake Bashoff, Carol Kane, Cody McMains

David Leary was bullied by Rosco when he was in elementary school. But he got even on the day his parents moved out of town. Now twenty years later, David, who is a successful writer, is invited back to his home town to teach. Everything is great until Rosco, who is still in town, recognizes him. Now suddenly someone is playing mean practical jokes on him. Isn't David a little too old to be running to the Principal saying "Rosco's picking on me." ?

This film reminds me of the Sunday afternoon family Films, Enchanting on that last day of rest where you are recovering from the day before. You don’ t want to waste the day yet want to go easy. Still want to remember every bit of it as you want it to go by slowly as you know what awaits the next day. Back to the rat race.

So films of this are not that good, but I find them relaxing. Not to vital. There are plenty of acclaimed films that go on this day to as they seem so sudden and important on a day full of rest that they stand out. I wish I could say which day I prefer to watch films as each day brings their own mood and a certain kind of magic to whatever you screen. They are like flavored some go better, but mixing and matching also works out well. Leading to strange and aquired tastes. That usually are memorable.

I only wish this film was better overall. It is done in a broad style and is high concept. Yet feels like it was done on a budget. Where things were supposed to be bigger and grander, but things got changed at the last minute and sent the production scrambling.

It sets up a romantic subplot only to sabotage it as a running gag, but then abandon it to a certain degree. Only to reignite it to tie a bow around the ending.

Now while the scenes of rivalry between the two leads are fun. They never seem to rise to a demented degree that is hinted at. It might be because this film is obviously intended for a more family friendly audience. Though it gets partially dark to a degree.

It would seem like perfect casting Tom Arnold as the bully and Rick Moranis as the victim who begins to strike back.

They both play to their strengths. That feels like it could have gotten more mileage if made today or even letting the actors go a little off script and improv their scenes. As they stick to the script they do what is required yet feel handcuffed to the script. Even when some flair is all that is needed to make the scenes feel more alive.

Considering it is directed by Steve Miner a noted horror director. This film could have easily gone a darker more terrifying way like the film NEXT DOOR by James Woods

Tom Arnold is a rare screen actor. He plays Midwest and hulking bullies well. Yet he can also play oversized nerdish characters. Either way the characters he plays are usually full of bluster and talk too much. Yet they always work. Just look at him in EXIT WOUNDS the Steven Seagal movie. OR FROM THE CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE with Dmx and Jet Li. Sure he has a type but he also plays that type extremely well. Though unfortunately he seems more judged for his past personal life and the manner in which he achieved fame and notoriety. Though if given the chance he proves to be quite humorous. Even if not quite over the top funny. He can also play drama look at the films animal factory where he plays his usual type and GARDENS OF THE NIGHT which is really stretch for him playing a mothering pedophile. To this day though not a huge hit, I am shocked he never played the bully in The Tim Allen film JOE SOMEBODY (no offense to Patrick Warburton who was good in that film)

Just as Arnold is good so is Rick Moranis who seemed to be stuck playing these type field though he is better then this one. Which might be one of the reason why he stepped away. Playing the same type on different films that offer no new directions for him. I don’t have to justify his talent as he has a more pedigree career that is evident in most of his roles. As he plays what is required but might be the most interesting character who you want to know more about as there seems to be more then what is shown. All due to his performance. Even if they come off as cliche. And he seemed to be the prototypical nerd stereotype, but also seems to have had been a prototype for the modern day hipster. Just look at half they hairdos he has in his films like STREETS OF FIRE and THE WILD LIFE. Including the fact that is his retirement he has become a noted musician with actual Grammy's.

The only other cast member who really makes an impression are Curtis Armstrong as a fellow teacher with a nervous condition and Tony Pierce as Moranis' fireman buddy Ulf, Who is obsessed with fire and flames.

At least the script gives a logical reason for all of the action as the characters slowly go back to their old roles. As Tom Arnold having become weak after going to juvenile jail for an innocent crime. Has been humbled and jot owed. But once his old victim comes back into town. He finds himself empowered and redirected. As he feels like a new man due to this change of events.

As Rick Moranis Ducks him due to a secret from then past he still feels guilty about. That is what keeps him scared at first. The. Finds the strength to fight back. This struggle is mirrors by the leads children basically mimicking this relationship only in reverse roles.

The film comes alive a few times. Especially whenever Moranis's character is dealing with his old friends from grade school who are all grown up. Which again introduces something interesting then seems to abandon it. As it seems like there are some interesting ideas that are never explored or feel cut out to trim the fat. As this film barely makes ninety minutes. There were plans to do a sequel which never materialized.

The film isn't deep but it is a nice time waster that you will forget immediately after watching it. If anything it's a film to watch with your kids to teach a lesson about bullying. And it’s dangers

Grade: C

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