The Big Kahuna
(2000)











Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 31 Minutes


Reviewer: Jones
Grade: B+

On the surface "The Big Kahuna" looks like a simple film about a business convention in Wichita, Kansas. A business convention where three men have been sent to pitch there wonderfully slippery lubricants to "The Big Kahuna." Beyond that simple storyline is so much more. It is a film of introspection. Holding each of these men, one in particular, up to the looking glass and peering through. It is these three men, and the actors behind them, which deserve the attention of this review.

Larry Mann (Kevin Spacey) is a by the balls sort of man. He knows, or thinks he knows, what it takes to make the big sale. He has all the answers long before he has heard the questions. Nothing ever seems to be to his liking, yet you still find yourself enjoying his presence on the screen. Must be the whole Spacey thing. He has a sort of blunt honesty that one doesn't know whether to admire or despise him for. He possesses the sort of bluntness that makes Napalm seem subtle. Despite what you think of Larry you find yourself pleasured by his self confidence, as well as the fact that he has never cheated on his wife in 15 years on the road. He has done all this despite a certain weakness for women in business suits he confesses.

Despite Spacey's usual flawless performance this film goes nowhere without Danny Devito's metamorphosis into Phil Cooper. Phil is one of those men who has been consistently shat upon for the majority of his existence. To top things off he is going through a messy divorce, while having to put up with the incessant verbal barbs he receives from Larry. He tries to maintain peace between his two fellow salesmen, while trying to cling to what little meaning he can find in his own existence. He wants to be loved. As the film progresses, Devito falls into the abyss that is Phil Cooper's soul. Looking for answers, but only finding more questions.
Some of the questions Phil finds are of the nature that Bob Walker (Peter Facinelli) dwells upon on a daily basis. Bob is deeply rooted in his beliefs. Those beliefs center upon the Church, which leads to clashes between him and Larry. He oftentimes finds himself talking about Jesus when he should be talking about lubricants, which incenses Larry to no end. Bob is the only one who comes into contact with "The Big Kahuna," but whether or not he makes the sale is barely even secondary to what this film has to say.

"The Big Kahuna" is a film with an extremely heavy heart. Much more depth than this reviewer expected when setting foot in the theater. The acting is top notch with Danny Devito giving a must-see performance that is undoubtedly the best of his career.

So why only a B+ you ask? I don't know. Maybe I expect way too much out of the conclusion to a film. I find myself oftentimes disenchanted by what I am left with to take home from the theater. That is exactly how I felt after seeing "The Big Kahuna." The ending is some sort of bullshit Baz Luhrman play on words. You know the kind. The voiceover with the electronic beat in the background bullshit. I'm sorry, but that totally clashes with the rest of the film. I felt like I was being sermonized to death by a preacher on a Jesus-high. Spare me please. This movie could have been a solid "A" with great ease. Moments before the Baz-beating takes place, the film could have ended beautifully. I am giving nothing away, because you won't understand what the meaning behind this is unless you watch the movie. Anyway, there comes a moment near the end where Phil receives a phone call, a few words are spoken, and then he hangs up. ROLL CREDITS. That would have been perfect, but instead we are lambasted with the endless aforementioned bullshit stream.

All that aside, "The Big Kahuna" is a surprisingly solid film. Definitely one of those films that will be talked about a year from now as one of those great movies that nobody saw. If you don't get a chance to see it in the theater, be sure to rent it when it comes out on video. Just remember to hit stop after Phil hangs up that phone, or you'll be sorry.