Raising Arizona (1987): Joel and Ethan Coen Screwball Comedy Starring Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter

In a shrewdly calculated about-face, the Coen brothers followed their stunning debut, the Gothic noir Blood Simple, with a film that could not have been more different, Raising Arizona, a screwball comedy about a childless couple (Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter) who kidnap a baby from Nathan Arizona Sr., the father of quintuplets.

If Blood Simple was deliberately slow and spare with words, Raising Arizona boasted breakneck pacing and hopping banter. Until the film skids off-road with a Road Warrior fantasy at the end, it’s a madcap romp designed to showcase the Coens’ versatility.

Demonstrating implacable nuttiness, Raising Arizona had a couple of escaped convict brothers, surnamed snopes, in a jolly reminder of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.

The picture contains an excellent on-foot chase scene, but in a sequence where the baby quintet is left unattended on the highway, the Coens revealed their calculated heartlessness.

Once again, flashy camera and brilliantly conceived scenes–John Goodman literally bursting up out of the earth in a rainstorm–created a milieu totally removed from that of Blood Simple.

Self-conscious, the movie is full of references to the Road Warrior films, Carrie, and Badlands, among others, giving a  new meaning and life to the genre of road comedy.