Today, I’m going to delve into a real weird one: Dan Aykroyd’s Nothing But Trouble.
The plot of Nothing But Trouble is summarized on IMDb as follows:
A businessman finds he and his friends the prisoners of a sadistic judge and his equally odd family in the backwoods of a bizarre mansion.
Nothing But Trouble was co-written and directed by the comedy icon and Saturday Night Live alum Dan Aykroyd. While his writing credits are extensive (Coneheads, Ghostbusters, The Blues Brothers, Spies Like Us, Dragnet), Nothing But Trouble has been his only directorial work. His co-writer for the screenplay was his brother, Peter Aykroyd, who was a writer for Saturday Night Live and PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal.
The cast is led by, of course, Dan Aykroyd, alongside Chevy Chase (Vacation, Christmas Vacation, Fletch), John Candy (The Great Outdoors, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Spaceballs, Uncle Buck), Demi Moore (Striptease, Ghost, Blame It On Rio), Raymond J. Barry (Sudden Death, Training Day, Flubber), and Brian Doyle-Murray (Groundhog Day, Caddyshack).
The cinematographer for Nothing But Trouble was Dean Cundey, who has shot films like Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, Flubber, Hook, Big Trouble In Little China, Halloween III, Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, and Roller Boogie.
The movie required the work of two editors: James R. Symons (Fortress 2, Tank Girl, Rambo III, Over The Top, Cobra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Malcolm Campbell (Son of the Mask, Keeping the Faith, Wayne’s World, Spies Like Us, Three Amigos, Trading Places, An American Werewolf In London).
The musical score for Nothing But Trouble was composed by Michael Kamen, who also worked on X-Men, The Iron Giant, Last Action Hero, Event Horizon, Hudson Hawk, Road House, Die Hard, The Dead Zone, Action Jackson, Highlander, and Brazil.
Dan Aykroyd reportedly based Nothing But Trouble on a real life experience, in which he was stopped for speeding in the middle of the night, and then taken to a local justice of the peace for an impromptu trial by the officer. Likewise, another inspiration for the film was an excuse to put John Candy in drag, which Aykroyd personally found hilarious.
Famed Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert hated watching Nothing But Trouble so much that he refused to formally write a review for it, something that he rarely ever did over his career.
In a number of shots, Dan Aykroyd’s distinct prosthetic nose is switched out for a similar one that was specifically sculpted to look more like a penis.
Nothing But Trouble strangely features a cameo and performance by lauded rap icon Tupac Shakur, who is brought before the judge and subsequently released for the value of his artistic contributions.
The annual Golden Raspberry Awards, which are given out to the judged worst films and performances of the year, recognized Nothing But Trouble in six categories, including Worst Picture. Ultimately, Dan Aykroyd won Worst Supporting Actor for his roles in the film. In most categories, however, it wound up losing out to another ill-fated comedy: Hudson Hawk.
Nothing But Trouble was made on a production budget of $40 million, on which it grossed roughly $8.5 million in its lifetime theatrical run, making it a significant financial failure. Likewise, it was near-universally loathed critically: it currently holds an IMDb user rating of 4.9/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 8% from critics and 41% from audiences.
One of the most common criticisms I have heard of Nothing But Trouble is that it is just too gross. I certainly don’t disagree with that, but I think props are deserved for both the makeup and production design for the film, rather than scorn and derision. The vision behind the decision to make the film gross may have been flawed, but the team sure pulled off the effect well, and that is deserving of some recognition.
That said, there isn’t much else positive to say about the movie. The screenplay never seems like it got properly polished: it doesn’t really move beyond its setup, and leans on insulting and derogatory humor a lot to try to fill in gaps, throwing punches at targets like overweight women and people with disabilities. I’ve heard that Akyroyd is at his best when he has other writers that can keep him on task and in check, as was the case with Ghostbusters. Nothing But Trouble is a case of him unfettered and running amok with a screenplay, and the result is quite a mess.
The combination of the focus on gross-out humor along with a sprinkling of gags that shamelessly punch down is that the movie just isn’t funny. Even Chevy Chase, who can typically elevate material with a physical performance, is ruined by his character’s writing. He is clearly supposed to be the avatar for the audience, but most of the more offensively pointed jokes are thrown from his perspective, which makes him come off like an asshole throughout the whole movie, which ruins the audience’s supposed anchor.
Overall, despite some technical merits with the makeup and design, there is no good reason to seek this flick out. Nothing But Trouble is like seeing some superior trim on a dilapidated house that’s sitting on a shattered foundation. It is best to just pass it by.