Few postwar films successfully embody the delectable spirit of 1930s screwball comedy, which depended on sustained verbal and visual lunacy. Thanks to Joel and Ethan Coen, this one does — and inimitably.
Cop Edwina (call her Ed) falls for convenience-store heist man H.I. McDunnough (call him Hi) while she’s taking his mug shot. It’s trailer-park love at first sight. Better still, it’s Holly Hunter and Nicholas Cage. Ed can’t have kids and Hi aims to please. Seems furniture king Nathan Arizona (husband of Florence) has quintuplets. Does he really need all five? Ed and Hi think not. Hi nabs the little Arizona, Nathan puts out reward money, and the Coen Brothers frolic off to the races.
They spoof white trash America with Jabberwocky verve. John Goodman and John Forsthye add spice as Hi’s jail-sprung friends Gale and Evelle Snoats (yes, Snoats), while Nathan enlists the help of Leonard Smalls (Tex Cobb), the Lone Biker Of The Apocalypse and a baby-hunter for hire. There’s also Glen (Sam McMurray) and Dot (the irrepressible Frances McDormand). All this takes place in… Arizona. Or maybe Utah. Not even Hi knows for sure. “There’s right and there’s right,” says Hi, “and never the twain shall meet.” Certainly not in this bundle of joy.