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“Outstanding performances are delivered by an all-star cast in this quirky black comedy centered on Paul Barnell (Robin Williams), a down on his luck Alaska travel agent who’s on the brink of bankruptcy and whose beloved wife, Margaret (Holly Hunter), is on the brink of insanity.
So what’s a nice guy with good intentions but bad business sense to do? The answer lies frozen in a dumpster outside of Barnell Great Escapesa dead body Paul hopes to pass off as his long-lost brother Raymond (Woody Harrelson) and then collect on the life insurance. Unfortunately, investigator Ted Watters (Giovanni Ribisi “Lost in Translation”) who’s anxious to transfer back to the lower 48 with his girlfriend (Alison Lohman “Where the Truth Lies”), isn’t about to let Barnell walk away with a million bucks. Adding to Paul’s avalanche of problems are two aspiring hit men-turned-kidnappers (Tim Blake Nelson and W. Earl Brown) and the stunning return of the supposedly dead Raymond, who now has an ax to grind with his brother. Desperation is running high in the “big white,” and if Paul is smart, he’ll blow the snow, take the money and run to South America.”
“The Big White” is rated R for language including sexual references and some violence.
In fact, “The Big White” has some really funny moments in it. Holly Hunter plays Margaret Barnell, a woman who thinks that she has Tourette’s Syndrome, but doesn’t really. Her constant stream of profanities seems especially absurd considering she’s faking the affliction. Giovanni Ribisi is also amusing as an insurance investigator who doggedly chases down scam artists. This leads to some funny moments as well. And Robin Williams turns the tables on some thugs when they shake him down for some money. His clever way of getting ahead in the situation is one of the high points of his performance.
Where “The Big White” falls apart is when it ventures into the territory of “black comedy”. It dances a fine line between being funny and being too serious. Unfortunately it swings too far both ways quite often. There are a number of serious scenes, especially at the end, that simply don’t work with the rest of the movie. I can’t get into them without discussing spoilers, but I will say the scenes seemed like they came from a different movie. Likewise, there are a few scenes where it gets a bit too silly and ventures into the realm of the absurd. Because it can’t seem to decide on an appropriate tone, it’s not successful at being a solid comedy or a solid black comedy.
Who should check out “The Big White”? Well, if you’re a fan of any of the main actors, I think you’ll find they deliver fine performances. It’s the overall story that doesn’t quite work. Fans of Giovanni Ribisi will be glad to see him excel as both a comedic performer and an unexpected romantic lead. But for the overall movie, lower your expectations and you’ll probably be a lot more satisfied.
There’s not much in the way of bonus features on this DVD. There’s a photo gallery and a behind the scenes featurette. It’s your standard DVD offering featuring interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more. Robin Williams clowns around here more than he does in the movie.