review for Raising Arizona on AllMovie

Raising Arizona (1987)
by Lucia Bozzola review

Following their noir debut, Blood Simple (1984), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen turned their idiosyncratic, film-literate attentions to screwball comedy in Raising Arizona (1987). The Coens play the American Dream for farce, as non-violent hold-up man "Hi" (Nicolas Cage) and mug shot photographer Edwina (Holly Hunter) attempt parenthood through kidnapping. With nods to cartoon slapstick and The Road Warrior (1981), among others, and a script that mixes southwestern slang and polished locutions, the Coens extract maximum wackiness from their sly send-up of familial urges. From crude yet refined convicts Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe) to blowhard father Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson) to swinging procreators Glen (Sam McMurray) and Dot (Frances McDormand), all the cartoony characters want to parent baby Arizona for all the wrong reasons. Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld's sharp compositions, low camera, and manic "shakycam" shots showcase the Coens' energetic visual wit, particularly in a prolonged chase featuring dogs, cops, a "panty"-wearing Hi, and a package of purloined Huggies. Complete with carefully modulated over-the-top performances from the entire cast, Raising Arizona confirmed the Coens' place among the most distinctive filmmakers to emerge from the 1980s independent cinema.